Intended for healthcare professionals


Health and social care: What’s in a name?

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 15 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k201
  1. Jon Glasby, professor of health and social care
  1. Head of the School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. j.glasby{at}

Joint billing is a weak response to profound problems in both sectors

As Jeremy Hunt walked into Downing Street during the Cabinet reshuffle last week, it was widely assumed that he would move roles. When he emerged in the same job, but with a new title—secretary of state for health and social care—it took everyone by surprise. Despite speculation that he was asked to move, refused, and somehow emerged with an expanded portfolio,12 the reality is somewhat different.

The Department of Health has long held the policy lead for adult social care, and social care funding still remains a matter for local government, overseen by a renamed Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. As the editor of the Health Service Journal, Alistair McLellan, tweeted: “Profoundly irritated that DH now has misleading new name … simply because May ballsed up the reshuffle #nothinghaschanged.”

On one level, dismissing the name change as merely window dressing is tempting but probably not quite fair. What we call things matters, and having a renamed Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sends a …

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