Jeremy Hunt has remained as health secretary in today’s cabinet reshuffle but has now had social care added to his title, despite early predictions that he would be moved to another department.
Mr Hunt emerged from 10 Downing Street late on Monday afternoon with the new title of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
“This is a welcome recognition of the importance of social care”
The move to reclassify the Department of Health as the Department of Health and Social Care, fits in with the government’s current agenda to further integrate care provision and was quickly welcomed by a number of organisations from both sectors.
Until now, responsibility for social care policy has been split between the Department of Health, and the Department for Communities and Local Government – though social care had a higher profile at the DH under the coalition.
Details of any specific changes to the department’s portfolios have not yet been announced. The government has previously said a “green paper” on social care reform will be published in the summer, following a retreat from Conservative manifesto proposals on a funding overhaul.
Mr Hunt is already one of the longest serving health secretaries and certainly in the longest in the modern era, having succeeded Andrew Lansley in September 2012.
However, many commentators were speculating earlier in the day that he would be moved in order to become business secretary or even as a possible deputy to prime minister Theresa May.
Former health minister Anne Milton had been widely touted as his probably replacement as health secretary, presumably due to her nursing background. She is currently minister for skills and apprenticeships and for women.
“Now we need the long term planning and sustainable funding for the scale of increased demand and costs”
Responding to the announcement, most organisation representing either health or social care welcomed the move to rename Mr Hunt’s department and expand its portfolio.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “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.
“General practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures,” she said. “GPs and our teams conduct the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS… and we alleviate pressures right across the health service and social care sector, and we keep our patients safe.”
Glen Garrod, vice president of the Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “This is a welcome recognition of the importance of social care. ADASS has long called for a more coherent approach towards health and social care.
“Every day, social workers and social care staff across the country make a huge difference to the lives of older people, and adults of working age with disabilities,” he said.
He added: “It’s essential that this work is recognised with a determination in the new department to put social care on the secure financial footing it needs, and to deliver better quality health and social care solutions, that can benefit individuals and communities across the country.”
“We have consistently argued that health and social care are mutually dependent”
Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP and chair of the influential health select committee, tweeted: “Really encouraging to see both health and care together, now we need the long term planning and sustainable funding for the scale of increased demand and costs.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “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,” he said. ”To that extent this looks like a good move.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Today’s announcement signals that social care is being placed on an equal footing with healthcare.
”People with dementia are the biggest recipients of social care and so we hope this marks a new dawn where they do not need to fight to receive essential support,” he added.
However, political opponents noted that the department was already responsible for some social care policy and that the move was nothing more than a renaming exercise.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, who was a minister in the coalition government, said: “The Department for Health was already responsible for social care policy.
“Unless the government is proposing a radical change to social care funding, it looks like mere window dressing,” he said. “This kind of gimmick is no substitute for finding a long-term solution to the crisis facing the NHS and social care.
“As health minister responsible for social care, I took the Care Act through Parliament – introducing a cap on care costs that has since been abandoned by the Conservatives,” said Mr Lamb.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the reshuffle continued with Philip Dunne standing down as a health minister and two new ministers for health and social care being appointed.
Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport, and Stephen Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, have been appointed to the renamed Department of Health and Social Care as ministers of state.
Ms Dineage was previously a junior minister for women, equalities and family justice at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education.
Prior to her election in 2010, she was a member of Winchester Council and ran a business that manufactured corporate identity products.
Mr Barclay, who also entered parliament in 2010, was economic secretary at the Treasury. He previously worked in financial regulation and financial crime prevention at Barclays retail bank.
Current health ministers and their briefs
- Jeremy Hunt MP – Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
- Stephen Barclay MP – Minister of State for Health
- Caroline Dinenage MP – Minister of State for Care
- Jackie Doyle-Price MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities
- Steve Brine MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care
- Lord O’Shaughnessy – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (Lords)
Hunt remains as health secretary and takes on social care