Yesterday’s Queen Speech introduced the legislation to be put before Parliament in the next two years, an unusual move as it’s traditionally an annual event. The Speech had an obvious lack of health related bills, with only the Draft Patient Safety Bill being introduced, and mental health reform, a huge campaign platform being reduced to ‘non-legislative measures’.
So what does this mean for the Department of Health and the Secretary of State?
Jeremy Hunt is now the longest serving Cabinet Member (after the PM) in the current Government, and is now the longest serving Health Secretary in history.
As Chris Ham, Kings Fund Chief Exec rightly said; Hunt’s reappointment brings “some welcome continuity as the NHS enters one of the most challenging periods in its history.”
Hunt has already declared business as usual, but with Brexit, a minority Government and an ageing population, the NHS has more obstacles to face than ever before. With the loss of two junior ministers – Nicola Blackwood and David Mowat, and Jackie Doyle-Price MP and Steve Brine MP (previously Hunt’s PPS) taking up the reigns, the Department looks and feels different. The key question is, will it be able to create sustainability and longevity in the NHS?
Hunt believes so, and used his first speech post re-election at NHS Confed to highlight the contribution of staff to the NHS and detailed his prioritisation of keeping NHS staff throughout the Brexit process. He also appeared sympathetic to the calls for a pay raise for the public sector and promised to reinvigorate efforts to see at least 95% of A&E patients within four hours. The Conservatives promised an additional £8bn of funding for the NHS and it seems that Hunt has started spending.
However, with a ‘lite’ Queen’s Speech, will Hunt receive the funding the manifesto promised? Health appears to be one of the first casualities of the minority government.
Pulse has a useful roundup of the thoughts of top health influencers on the return of Jeremy Hunt.