Although there was a lot of speculation that Matt Hancock could have been promoted in the new Johnson government, last night it was revealed that he would be remain in post as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Considering over half of Teresa May’s cabinet was sacked, he was lucky to avoid the chop and maintaining the blue-chip post of health secretary reflects his loyalty to Johnson during the leadership race.
Many commentators (none more so than Dennis Campbell at The Guardian) have noted that his first stint as Secretary of State was pretty forgettable and that he failed to establish a legacy. Leaders across the NHS were hardly forthcoming with praise believing him to be more interested in headlines than the significant challenges they face day to day.
Heading back into work today he may feel a little downcast – the challenges he seems to struggle with are still there and the hype and energy for his tech agenda may be running out of charge.
To help him on his way into his next phase as health lead Boris has laid out two key deliverables:
1.Improve NHS infrastructure
2.Solve social care
At a recent Cambridge Health Network event Lord Prior, Chair of NHS England, called for a £50bn bond so that building works, IT improvements and service change proposals can be undertaken. His dreams maybe about to be answered as increased funding seems to be on its way. Boris said outside Downing Street that “20 hospital upgrades” were kicking off this week and that he was committed to the benefits of more money going into the NHS being felt at the frontline.
Prioritising infrastructure projects will be a challenge with a never-ending list of ‘to dos’ across the NHS estate. Our prediction is that Hancock may be drawn towards those projects which facilitate his vision for tech in the NHS, such as wi-fi and IT infrastructure.
Yesterday, Boris said he would “fix the crisis for social care once and for all”. Today in Parliament, Boris was clear that social care is very much on his agenda asking Labour to join in a cross-party solution, and if they were not prepared: “we will fix it ourselves”.
Hancock has failed to publish the much anticipated green paper and by all accounts the document may not have enough substance to satiate an increasingly frustrated sector. Pressure from stakeholders has heightened significantly reducing wriggle room and Hancock will need to work tirelessly with colleagues across parliament and the sector to move this agenda forward.
Considering the criticism that he left in June with no legacy, he has ample opportunity with the infrastructure and social care agenda to be remembered for years to come – let’s hope it’s for all the right reasons.