Jeremy Hunt has now become the UK’s longest-serving health secretary. In an interview with the Guardian, he spoke about his time in the role. The most brazen comment he made was the suggestion that people should “judge me by my results”. Which is quite a remarkable thing to say, given that his time in office is marked by constant failure.
Hunt was asked what he’d tell the many critics who say the NHS isn’t safe in his hands. He said:
I would say: judge me by my results. What I want is a strong NHS delivering the highest standards of care anywhere in the world and that is true to the founding values of the NHS, and I hope that looking back on my time as health secretary people can see that actually the foundations for that change were laid in the period that I was health secretary.
Already, you can see Hunt lining up his future spin. By talking about “foundations for… change”, Hunt is angling to take credit for whoever fixes his mess. But if you look at his record, it’s clear that the Hunt model needs ripping up and starting again.
The shadow health minister, Justin Madders, recently asked:
How has this master of incompetence kept his job?
Madders also pointed to some of Hunt’s ‘results‘ since he took the job in 2012:
- The number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E up 842%.
- An extra 1.4 million people on NHS waiting lists.
- The number of people waiting over two weeks for urgent cancer treatment has doubled since 2013.
- 7,000 fewer beds.
- Waiting time for consultant-led treatment at 22 weeks – above the government’s 18 week target since 2016.
Another thing people accuse Hunt of is trying to privatise the NHS. He is, after all, the man who co-authored a book about replacing the NHS with private insurance.
Although the NHS is still free at the point of service in most instances, Hunt has faced legal action over plans to “Americanise” the service.
Before his death, Prof Stephen Hawking was involved in the legal action against Hunt. He said:
We must prevent the establishment of a two-tier service, with the best medicine for the wealthy and an inferior service for the rest. International comparisons indicate that the most efficient way to provide good healthcare is for services to be publicly funded and publicly run.
We see that the direction in the UK is towards a US-style insurance system, run by the private companies, and that is because the balance of power right now is with the private companies.
Crucially, Hunt is incredibly unpopular with the people who serve under him. There have been strikes by junior doctors who face “unsafe” working conditions; a “haemorrhaging” of nurses, and instances of staff “quitting to work in supermarkets” due to poor pay.
Hunt had this to say when he became the longest-serving health secretary:
Sometimes time has flown, at others it’s been achingly slow, but every second of last 5+ yrs has been a privilege. Thanks #NHS for being extraordinary in so many ways: much more impressive than a long serving Health Sec are the staff who have devoted 10, 15 or 20+ yrs to patients
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) June 4, 2018
Health professionals had a different take:
In case you wondered why @Jeremy_Hunt still has his job despite the worst tenure in history: he's effectively underfunded, downsized, outsourced and fragmented the NHS as asked. https://t.co/qqCaN2wrmZ
— Dr Ben White (@drbenwhite) June 3, 2018
As one of my dear doctor friends said earlier on Jeremy Hunt’s “legacy” as longest-serving health secretary:
— Dr Lauren Gavaghan (@DancingTheMind) June 4, 2018
Asked to respond to critics who fear the #NHS is not safe in his hands, Hunt said: “I would say: judge me by my results." That is exactly what we are doing, and why we are so worried about the future of #ourNHS #NHS70 https://t.co/bz6E4x7sSO
— Doctors in Unite (@DoctorsInUnite) June 6, 2018
Jeremy Hunt becomes longest-serving health secretary in NHS history. In my 23 years working in the #NHS, I’ve never known the system to be in such a perilous state. That is the legacy of Tory governance of the NHS
— Clive Peedell (@cpeedell) June 4, 2018
Lies, damn lies, and government policy
Hunt’s legacy also includes a habit of saying things that are at best misleading and at worst not true. In his time in office, Hunt has:
- Made false claims about “30,000 more people working in mental health”.
- Used misleading statistics about death rates to criticise a junior doctors’ strike.
- Claimed “there’s been a two per cent decline in the number of nurses… but an increase in the nurse-to-bed ratio”. This was misleading because the nurse-to-bed ratio had only increased because beds had decreased.
Hunt also supported plans for “a proper 7-day service” on the basis that 6,000 people died every year without it. He claimed this before the study claiming this had even been made public – a move deemed inappropriate by the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
A report from the British Medical Journal later ‘rubbished’ the claims of 6,000 deaths, and said Hunt was guilty of “extreme political arrogance” or steps to “destabilise the NHS”.
Hunt isn’t laying the seeds for the NHS to grow; he’s poisoning the land so no one can complain when he sells it off cheap.
The only sensible thing he’s done in his career is ask people to judge him on his record. Because we should judge him on the things he’s done. And in future, we should hold him up as an example of how not to run the NHS.
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