Intended for healthcare professionals


Jeremy Hunt interview: Still a safe pair of hands?

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 23 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1632
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

Jeremy Hunt is a health secretary under pressure. In this exclusive interview with The BMJ’s editor in chief Fiona Godlee, the man who could soon become the longest serving health secretary insists he has more to give. Gareth Iacobucci reports

The steady hand brought in to steer the NHS away from the front pages has been shaking in recent months, but the grip seems to be intact. As he greets The BMJ in his Whitehall office, Jeremy Hunt does not betray the signs of a man buckling under the pressure despite a tumultuous few months that have left many NHS staff feeling downtrodden, battered, and bruised—and that have brought calls for his resignation after he was rebuked for misrepresenting data published in The BMJ to support the case for seven day working in the NHS.

Appointed to his current role in September 2012, the former culture secretary was tasked with detoxifying the NHS after the controversy of healthcare reforms by his predecessor, Andrew Lansley. Identified by the prime minister, David Cameron, as a skilful political operator, the emollient Hunt was largely successful in steering the narrative away from the damaging effects of the Health and Social Care Act and towards a patient safety agenda in the wake of Robert Francis’s review into the Mid Staffordshire scandal.

Earlier this month Hunt hosted the first Global Patient Safety Summit, in which health ministers from across the world gathered to discuss improving safety standards in healthcare, underpinned by Hunt’s stated aim to move the NHS from “a blame culture to a learning culture” and make the NHS the world’s safest, highest quality health service.

NHS in crisis

While his emphasis on safety has been laudable, it has coincided with a sustained funding squeeze for the NHS. Hunt’s push for hospitals to adopt safe staffing levels …

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