Jeremy Hunt | Realist or Tyrant?

Above Photo: Flickr Original here Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

"Cameron's Ultimate Reshuffle, Culture Secretary promoted to health." This is what the papers read on the 4th of September 2012, where Jeremy Hunt became Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Health. However, last month he was voted the most unpopular cabinet member and the most incompetent MP. So what happened to the man once dubbed "Cameron's little star" who once oversaw the largely successful Olympic Games?

When succeeding Andrew Lansley in 2012, there was much hope that the new Health secretary will start healing the wounds between the government and the medical society. Indeed the chair of the British Medical Association told reports when the appointment was announced, "The appointment of a new Health Secretary provides a fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS."

Jeremy Hunt started his first week off on the wrong foot, when reports surfaced that he wanted more money into homeopathy and wanted to shorten the abortion time from 24 to 12 weeks. He had also co-authored a book calling for the NHS "to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts, which they could then use to shop around for care from public and private providers."

Soon after the appalling waiting times were revealed in A&E centre, it was found he was personally phoning heads of departments where the waiting times were the highest, a move described as "crazy" by David Prior, chairman of the Care Quality Commission. In 2014, Hunt announced that the government would not give a recommended 1% pay rise to NHS non-medical staff receiving progression pay (around 55% of total non-medical staff.) Hunt was also criticised for the fact that his claims about hospitals being more unsafe at weekends not merely misrepresented the facts but had potentially caused patients to delay going into hospitals and thus put them at risk.

His critics described the "Hunt Effect," where patients who needed medical attention at a weekend had been deterred from doing so because they were persuaded that it would be better to wait until a Monday. Statisticians Professor David Spiegelhalter and David Craven, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary also denounced Hunt for making misleading statements about weekend hospital treatment. And then came the cherry on top. The 2015 Junior Doctor's Contract. He proposed that Junior Doctors would've to work 12 hour days including Saturdays and overtime premium would be cut. This started off months of stand-off between the government and the BMA resulting in harsh words, false promises and strikes. He was nationally condemned and became the face of the "nasty" Conservative Party. 

However it's not all doom and gloom. Recently the Health Department announced the biggest recruitment of mental health staff however it has been criticised as too little too late. The highest number of nurses and midwifes have been recruited into the NHS since its creation. However, are all of these controversies his fault. Is it just Tory austerity that is restricting his every move. Well his predecessor certainly thinks so. In a interview with the Mail, he said, "Jeremy is doing the best he can in a difficult situation. Due to the horrible economic crash and the failure so of the last Labour government, the Conservatives have had to take the hard decisions necessary." However Labour's Jeremy Corbyn strongly disagrees, saying that, "the Conservatives have the money to pay £1bn to the DUP and cut corporation tax, however they are reluctant to spend a penny on our Nation Health Service." It is clear that Mr.Hunt has divided the opinions of the nation.

In my opinion, Jeremy Hunt has been presented with a difficult situation. However he has been constantly messing up and sticking to his guns, not admitting his mistakes. He has an Iron Fist on the budget and he can petition the government for more funding. Overall it looks like Mr.Hunt is here to stay as no-one wants his job. He has had to make tough decisions but he is also unqualified and not up to the task. He needs to listen to review bodies and try and take recommendations on board. So to answer the title question, I say more of the former. He has been presented with a momentous task; however his failings with the Junior Doctor Contract and then forced enforcement of the contract clearly shows what kind of man is leading our Health Department.