Jeremy Hunt will remain as health secretary, prime minister David Cameron has confirmed today as part of a string of announcements about who will form the new Conservative government’s ministerial team.
Also announced today by the prime minister was the appointment of Alistair Burt as minister of state at the Department of Health, who replaces the post held by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb.
Mr Burt was a junior minister at the foreign and commonwealth office from 2010-13, but since then he has not been in government. He was a minister for several years during the 1990s at the Department of Social Security.
Mr Hunt was first appointed to the role of health secretary in September 2012, replacing Andrew Lansley in the wake of the latter’s unpopular health reforms.
In November, Mr Hunt told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal that he wanted to be health secretary until 2017, claiming he “would be very happy if this is my life’s work”.
“[Mr Hunt’s] first priority must be to plug the growing black hole in NHS finances by securing additional funding for the current financial year”
In the past couple of years, Mr Hunt has overseen a number of controversial decisions and proposals affecting nursing.
Last year he rejected the independent NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation for a blanket 1% pay rise for all NHS staff in England.
After extensive campaigning by unions and industrial action by NHS staff, the health secretary later put forward a pay deal – which was accepted – which saw the majority of NHS nurses offered a 1% increase, but not those on the higher pay bands.
Also under Mr Hunt’s tenure, the Department of Health earlier this year issued proposals to reduce unsocial hours pay for NHS staff in a bid make the NHS in England a “seven-day service”.
Commenting on Mr Hunt’s continued role as health secretary, Chris Ham, chief executive of think tank the King’s Fund, said it would bring “welcome continuity” during a “challenging period” for the NHS.
“The additional £8bn a year by 2020… is welcome but it… will not pay for new initiatives such as seven-day working”
Professor Ham said the health secretary’s first priority must be to secure additional funding for the NHS for the current financial year.
Prior to the election, the Conservative party pledged to provide the NHS with the additional £8bn it required by 2020, but did not state how soon this would be phased in.
He said it was also “an opportunity to continue the work on safety and quality of care he [Mr Hunt] started in the wake of the Francis report”.
“[Mr Hunt’s] first priority must be to plug the growing black hole in NHS finances by securing additional funding for the current financial year,” said Professor Ham.
“This should go hand-in-hand with a renewed drive to improve productivity to ensure the NHS is playing its part in responding to the pressures it is facing,” he added.
Professor Ham concluded: “Looking beyond this, the government must use the spending review later this year to put the NHS on a sustainable financial footing for the rest of the parliament.
“The additional £8bn a year by 2020 pledged in the Conservative manifesto is welcome but is the bare minimum needed to maintain standards of care and will not pay for new initiatives such as seven-day working. More money will also be needed for social care,” he said.
Also announced today by the prime minister was the appointment of Alistair Burt as minister of state at the DH.
Meanwhile, acting Labour party leader Harriet Harman - who took over from Ed Miliband last week after he stood down - has confirmed that Andy Burnham will remain as shadow health secretary. Liz Kendall will also continue as shadow minister for care and older people.