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Does anyone remember or care what Jeremy Hunt says?

14 March, 2017

Author: warren Town, Director of Industrial Strategy

Accident and emergency sign

The odd thing about being a Secretary of State for Health, and I have met quite a few ‘odd ones’, is that it is a post in government that can make or break a career.

Either they get the post because no one else wants it, or it is a poisoned chalice, or they truly believe they can save the NHS from future doom. In the case of the latter, they rarely hang around.

Now the odd thing about the current incumbant - Jeremy Hunt - is that he is either Teflon coated, or that no one really cares whether he does anything or not.

His latest wheeze is to show concern for A&E targets.

Having expressed concern about A&E not apparently reaching the magical 95% of patients seen within four hours, he then did nothing. Instead, he decided to ‘instruct’ that this ‘target’ is met by March 2018. In so doing, he has placed his reputation on the block because should the target not be met, he will be held accountable. But does he care?

So why this concern, then insistence, that the target be met? Because, he says, there is more money in the system.

We know this how? The budget told us so.

Will trusts see the extra dosh? Probably not because this increase will be controlled by the Department of Health.

Where will the money go? (Incidentally, it is £100million.) It will go towards developing GP clinics closer to A&E.

Will this solve the problem and improve throughput? Who knows, because there is conflicting evidence about why breaches of the target occur in the first place.

Oddly enough this close control of expenditure - trusts have to provide credible plans to DH to get their hands on the cash - all seems to go against the government belief in local control and local freedoms. But since when has a government steadfastly held onto single policy commitment when backed into a corner?

Mr Hunt has now set out his stall and, to some extent, his reputation by insisting on a target date that must be met.

If the target is not met will he survive? Will anybody care or even remember what he said?

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