Hunt gets social care responsibility amidst reshuffle confusion

Prime minister Theresa May has handed social care responsibilities over to Jeremy Hunt, who will now be secretary of state for Health and Social Care.

Hunt was strongly tipped to become the next first minister – a position which was left vacant after Damian Green was sacked by the prime minister over claims he had breached ministerial code because of pornography reportedly found on his parliamentary computer.

The name change has been met positively by some, with the suggestion that it could signal a closer relationship between health and social care, a move that has been encouraged by both health and local government leaders for a number of years.

Previously, the responsibility for social care had been at the feet of the Department for Communities and Local Government, but minister Marcus Jones was given a different role as Conservative vice chairman for local government - leaving a gap in social care.

Reacting to the announcement, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), commented: "This is a critical role at a critical time for general practice and the wider NHS and we will continue to work constructively with Jeremy Hunt in his expanded role as secretary of state for both health and social care in England.

"We support the bringing together of health and social care into the portfolio of one minister as we recognise that what happens to patients in the NHS is profoundly impacted by the state of social care.”

From a local government perspective, the County Council Network (CCN) has welcomed the change, but warned that it must be accompanied by action to ensure positive change in social care can be made.

Cllr Colin Noble, said: “CCN is pleased that social care has been given the Ministerial recognition it deserves following today’s announcement that the health secretary’s role will be expanded and will lead the development of the social care green paper.

“However, proposals are much stronger than titles and this government must ensure this review does not go the way of its predecessors. Social care is not sustainable in the short, medium, and long term; solutions must be found. This is imperative for counties, who are facing the largest demand-led and financial pressures within social care.”

Some commentators had expected Hunt to become the business secretary however, although he was called into number 10 alongside current secretary Greg Clark, he emerged after more than an hour with his slightly altered title.

The controversial Hunt, was recently forced to apologise to patients in the NHS after extreme winter pressures resulted in trusts across the country cancelling non-emergency operations.

However, given the chaos which is currently engulfing the NHS, some bosses have reacted positively to keeping the same leadership.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, stated: “We welcome this decision which should provide continuity at what is an extremely difficult time for both health and social care in England.

“We will have to see the detail of what is meant by the new title but we have consistently argued that health and social care are mutually dependent and that they need to be considered together at both national and local level. To that extent this looks like a good move.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling was the subject of even greater confusion this morning, when the Conservative Party twitter account mistakenly announced him as the party chairman.

Top image: NurPhoto SIPA USA PA Images

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