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The 130,000 will be Hancock’s legacy

GP support package Pulse editorial

Something I realised when compiling our 60th birthday issue last year is that every health secretary has at some point been called the worst ever, and Matt Hancock is no exception. Whether he is or not is a moot point (and there have been some bad ones, including his immediate predecessor, who has undergone a bizarre redemption). 

Hancock might have hoped his legacy would be based on his digital revolution in the NHS. In reality, his short and medium-term legacy is likely to be on those pictures of his kissing an aide he appointed, while breaking his own social distancing rules.  

But in the long-term, history will look back at Hancock’s time through the prism of being the health secretary through Covid. There were huge mistakes: sending Covid-positive patients back into care homes; the lack of PPE for health and care staff towards the start of the pandemic; the ridiculous test and trace system; the failure to make the case for earlier lockdowns while his boss was telling people to get back to work; and the mixed messaging after the original plea to ‘stay at home’.

However, the upshot is that, even if the mistakes had not occurred, he will always be judged on the 130,000 people who have died with Covid. This might be unfair. We don’t know how many would have died with someone different in place. The reporting seems to suggest he was pushing for the more cautious approach to lockdown. And it would be churlish not to appreciate the near-faultless vaccination programme.

But he was the health secretary and he must be judged on the outcomes. And the truth is, the death toll is far worse than anyone predicted in March 2020, and compares very badly to any comparable nation.

That is what Hancock will be remembered for, whether he deserved it or not.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


Karl Jones 30 June, 2021 6:22 pm

There is ample evidence that Johnson delayed lockdowns, and this was a factor in over 100,000 deaths.

Paul Evans 30 June, 2021 7:17 pm

‘near-faultless vaccination programme’ is pushing it – costed at breakeven for practices (whilst throwing cash at pharmacies and mass vacc centres), horrible IT and no relaxation of demands on primary care, thus ensuring it was largely performed by staff already burning-out, inflicting moral injury which is already resulting in GPs going sick and will likely contribute to the shortening of some GPs’ lives. All of this whilst NHSE abuse us in public.

It worked, but at significant cost to the profession.

Vinci Ho 30 June, 2021 8:11 pm

🥰As an adulator of the PM , he got the job to be in charge of NHS .
🐶As a ‘loyalist’ to the PM , he knew that he would most probably have to take the bullet for the PM when he was sitting in a session questioned by the Health Select Committee of House of Commons , especially after stinging allegations from the PM’s quasi-Rasputin ex-political advisor .
🎓As a ‘rule-maker’ , he had no choice other than resigning considering previous government resignations under similar circumstances.
👩‍❤️‍💋‍👨As a lover ,it is ‘romantic’ to absorb all culpabilities and attentions in front of the public ( although we do not know how the other halves felt about this affair )
👨‍💼Finally , as the Secretary of State (SOS) , he could only take up so much responsibilities for the government and its leader on this historic disaster. An independent inquiry is unavoidable 🧐😑

Steven Hopkins 1 July, 2021 8:25 am

Hardly fair to blame Matt Hancock for an organisation that has been failing for years. Mat Hancock wasn’t in charge when we had the N. Staffs hospital crisis in which 1500 died and nobody was held accountable, He wasn’t in charge for the Bristol Pediatrics Heart Surgery Fiasco. Nor was he in charge when Surgeons had to prescribe water to patients at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch because Nurses were to involved with computers to make sure their patients didn’t become dehydrated. Nor was he in charge when Nurses transitioned from Carers with a PIN to University Graduates to the advantage of absolutely nobody. He was not in charge when the NHS got rid of private wards thereby depriving themselves of additional income. The list goes on and on.
Lets face it, GPs have been griping, moaning and wallowing in self pity for as long as there has been an outlet for their complaints and yet they have done nothing to help matters.
To mitigate the scarcity of front line doctors and nurses, the NHS have introduced more “management” with which to hamper and distract GPs. The CCGs complicate the referral process and so waste more of our time. Hospital depts are run for their own convenience and decline referrals. CAMHS will only accept referrals for ADHD from our schools, not the GPs. The link between a GP and the Consultant has been broken.
Computers have merely added to the problem as the systems are not designed for communication between medics, nurses etc but to serve the Administrative Class that we have allowed to interfere with good practice.
We now have to contend with the CCGs, the CQC and an Appraisals and Revalidation system that would have done nothing to hamper Harold Shipman. It just wastes our time and our supposed leaders do nothing. The troops merely whine and say they will retire early (which they know full well they can’t afford to do.)
It is time to accept the NHS has failed. Not “is failing” not “is about to fail” but actually has failed.
The system of “free at the point of use” was noble idea but merely produced unsustainable demand of which the explosion in “Mental Health” is but one aspect.
Caring and clinical judgement have been replaced by algorithms and “professionalism”.
Let’s hope the New Health Secretary makes less of a hash of things than ALL the previous ones.

Vinci Ho 1 July, 2021 9:45 am

As Confucius wrote :
‘’There exist the fundamental and incidental, everything has a beginning and an end, knowing what comes first and after takes one closer to knowing the way (of wisdom and justice )’’
Question is what is the beginning (root) ? What is the end(outcome )? Are we really clear about that ?🧐

As CCP is celebrating its 100 years birthday today , I(as a person reading history )can certainly understand that the importance of this principle 🤨😑

Patrufini Duffy 1 July, 2021 3:45 pm

It is disgusting how Politicians abide by a code that is opposite to yours. They kill, you save. Dumbest paradox of UK operating procedure.

Concerned GP 4 July, 2021 11:51 pm

I don’t think it’s fair to pin all the blame on Hancock. Johnson is the PM and must take responsibility and be held to account.
Also I think Javid will be a much worse Health Secretary; just listening to his words so far shows he does not give a damn and does not know what he is talking about. Just wait and see.