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11.05.16

Jeremy Hunt becomes longest-serving health secretary despite controversy

In news few would have predicted, Jeremy Hunt has successfully outlasted all his predecessors to become Britain’s longest-serving health secretary.

Hunt became health secretary on 4 September 2012 – three years and 250 days ago.

Over the weekend, he outstripped Alan Milburn, health secretary from 1999 to 2003, to become the longest-serving of the 12 MPs who have held the post since it was created in its current form in 1988.

The news won’t be celebrated by Hunt’s many critics, including junior doctors’ leaders, who are currently in talks with the secretary in a bid to end the protracted deadlock over an unpopular new contract.

Nor will it come as good news to his opposite number, Labour’s Heidi Alexander, who urged him to “get a grip on the staffing crisis” before he leaves  high-level politics. He has previously suggested this will be his last major role in politics.

A Public Accounts Committee report, released today, accused the government’s health policies of contributing to staffing shortages and said it wasn’t clear how Hunt’s much-trumped goal of the seven-day NHS will be achieved.

The high turnover of health secretaries shows what a difficult job it is to be responsible for the nation’s healthcare at a time of increasing pressures. The debate over whether Hunt is solving those problems or adding to them will probably continue as long as he stays in post.

(Image c. Neil Hall from PA Wire)

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