Hunt denies that the government’s “reforms” lessen his responsibility for the NHS

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 23 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8022
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1BMJ

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has insisted that he would not abdicate his responsibility for delivering care in the NHS when he devolves power to local doctors to commission £60bn (€74bn; $96bn) of healthcare services in England. He acknowledged that his head would be “on the block” if the government’s changes to the NHS failed to deliver.

In a keynote speech to delegates at the NHS Alliance in Bournemouth this week—his first speech to doctors in his new role—Hunt said that he believed that giving the NHS “operational independence,” in line with the way services such as schools and the police force ran, was the best way to achieve positive results.

But he insisted that devolving power to local clinical commissioning groups would not mean that he would be any less accountable for the delivery of the health service.

Hunt used his speech to reiterate his four priorities during his tenure, namely to improve the care of people with dementia, improve rates of death from major diseases, bring the “technology revolution” into the NHS, and build a system where the quality of care received as much attention as the quality of treatment.

He believed that clinical commissioners had “won the argument for an NHS driven by local decision making,” he said, and appealed to doctors and other health professionals present to justify his faith.

“This is not an abdication of responsibility by politicians,” he said.

“My head will be on the block at the next election,” he added, if he didn’t “deliver the better NHS and health and social care system that the public has a right to expect.”

“My belief is that by giving you the operational independence at the frontline that you have craved for so long . . . we will be more likely to get those objectives and deliver that real change. So please don’t let me down.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8022