Health Policy Insight
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Editorial Friday 11 July 2014: The liberation of Jeremy Hunt

Publish Date/Time: 
07/11/2014 - 16:34

Rumours swirl of a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday. Health Policy Insight has no great form in correctly calling the likely fate for health secretaries under this coalition’s reshuffles, and I’m sure you’re not holding your breath now.

’Keep smiling through, just like you always do …’
Yet whether or not Mr Cameron seizes the moment and decides to makes the followers of #SimonBurns4SOS the happiest people on the planet, the man who’s smiling in all of this is the Jeremy Hunt.

Why? Because recent polling data for You Gov found that of the group surveyed, just 28% could identify that the Health Secretary was Jeremy Hunt. 5% thought it was another (incorrect) cabinet figure, and a full 67% did not know. (In context, most other key Cabinet job occupants were successfully recognised by around 60% of respondents, save DWP).

This is a great result for Mr Hunt’s career prospects, which rest (as I previously wrote) on getting out of DH politically alive.

If the NHS anonymity can be sustained, this will be quite a feat. The NHS money situation is becoming critical, as a new Nuffield Trust report and NHS Confederation infographic remind us.

As well as being personally agreeable and appearing open-minded and willing to listen, Mr Hunt has made a virtue out of the necessity of his job being (post-2012) little more than a bully pulpit. His phone calls to target-missing provider trusts have not attracted the mainstream media scrutiny they merit, and his casting himself as advocate-in-chief for patient safety is a reasonable, sensible adaptation to circumstances.

Noises off
Mike Smithson of Political Betting notes that the You Gov polling finds the electoral salience of health/NHS issues growing, which echoes the finding of Lord Ashcroft’s recent psephology.

The NHS money is in the process of going really rather badly wrong, and it looks as if the consequences of the inevitable shit-fan interaction may not stick to Mr Hunt significantly - if people don’t even know he is the Health Secretary.

George Osborne, a likely recipient of NHS financial blame, will be furious.

Forget ‘The Bellflinger’; Mr Hunt is a Teflon-coated Macavity.