Matt Hancock has been announced as the new health and social care secretary, following Jeremy Hunt’s departure for the Foreign Office in the wake of Boris Johnson’s resignation.
Mr Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, was previously Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, a post he has held since 8 January this year.
Prior to that, he was Minister of State for Digital from July 2016 to January 2018, where he was responsible for broadband, broadcasting, creative industries, cyber and the tech industry.
He has also held a large number of other ministerial posts, including minister for skills and enterprise, minister for small business and enterprise, and energy minister.
In addition, he has served as a minister in the cabinet office and as paymaster general.
He was first elected in the 2010 general election and has served as a backbencher on the Commons’ public accounts committee and the standards and privileges committee.
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Before entering politics, Mr Hancock worked as an economist at the Bank of England and as chief of staff to the shadow chancellor. He is married and has three young children.
Mr Hunt, who holds the record as the longest serving health secretary, has been appointed foreign secretary following the wake of high profile resignations today over Brexit.
He held the post of health secretary from 2012-18, officially adding the portfolio of social care in England to his title in January 2018. He replaced Andrew Lansley.
British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “We congratulate Mr Hancock on his appointment and look forward to working constructively with him on the development of health policies to ensure safe, high quality patient care.
“While there is a new secretary of state, the challenges the health service faces remain the same,” he said. “Patients are facing longer waits for care, so-called ‘winter pressures’ in the NHS are now hitting the service all year round, and it lacks doctors, nurses, and beds.”
Speaking on Mr Hunt’s departure, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The great survivor as health secretary has moved on. His legacy will be a better settlement for health than many had expected and a real focus on patient safety.
“He inherited a tangled mess of a reorganisation from his predecessor and he had to live with a succession of austere funding settlements which were never going to meet rising demand,” said Mr Dickson.
“Given so little to play with, Hunt deserves credit for helping to keep the show on the road, but the health service – better in many ways – has also slipped back when it comes to meeting many of its core standards.”
He added: “His successor has one overwhelming challenge - how to help the NHS and the social care system to become sustainable in the face of rising demand and a severe workforce crisis.”
Likewise, Vic Rayner, executive director of National Care Forum, said: ”We need the new secretary of state to raise his voice immediately for social care, and highlight the critical contribution of social care to the overall health and wellbeing of the nation.
“This is an absolutely critical time for social care, with the promise of a green paper in the autumn, the development of a joint workforce strategy between health and social care and, of course, the need to influence Treasury plans in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review,” he said.
He added: “We need the new leadership of this department to recognise not only the existing challenges of social care provision – but also the very real opportunities for transformation that exist – in order to ensure we have a social care system that meets the needs of all communities for many years to come.”
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Macmillan looks forward to working closely with the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to ensure that the health and care systems are set up to cope with the rising number of people with cancer so that they get the best level of care.
“Jeremy Hunt should be commended for securing additional funding for the NHS during his time as the longest-serving British health secretary,” she said.
“It’s hard to overstate how crucial this point in time is for the NHS. There is no room for complacency if we want it to be there for the next 70 years,” she noted.
“The first priority for the new health and social care secretary must be to set out how the extra funding for the NHS will be spent in a long-term funding plan and how this will address some of the critical challenges it faces, such as the gaps in the cancer workforce,” she added.
Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Matt Hancock arrives at a crucial time for the NHS with the need to develop a 10 year plan and prioritise how new funding is invested.
“This will require difficult decisions in balancing the need to recover lost ground after almost a decade of austerity, transforming the way services are delivered – including the digital revolution - and improving care in key areas such as cancer and mental health,” she said.
“He will also need to address important concerns that fall outside the NHS funding settlement, including social care, public health and workforce development. Without investment in these areas, progress will be curtailed,” said Ms Cordery.
She added: “We would also like to acknowledge the contribution made by Jeremy Hunt, our longest serving secretary of state, whose commitment and determination helped to secure the long term funding settlement for the NHS. Jeremy Hunt was a tireless champion of patient safety and helped to promote a culture of learning and improvement that will benefit the NHS for many years to come.”