Matt Hancock appointed health secretary in Brexit reshuffle
Matt Hancock is the new health and social care secretary, taking over from Jeremy Hunt, who has stepped in to be Boris Johnson’s replacement as foreign secretary.
The appointment was made in a tumultuous week that saw Brexit minister David Davis quit, followed by Johnson, who resigned amid high-level disagreements over Brexit.
While often mired in controversy, Jeremy Hunt outlasted his predecessors – including NHS founder Aneurin Bevan – and is the country’s longest-serving health secretary to date.
In terms of health-related credentials, Hancock (pictured above) has made no notable statements to date on the NHS and has reportedly not spoken publicly about GPs or doctors since joining Parliament in 2010 when he was elected as MP for West Suffolk.
He is taking the reins at a time when the NHS is under increasing strain in terms of funding and staff levels.
The government is being called to account over the notorious pledge by the “Leave” campaign that claimed Brexit would make £350 million a week available to the NHS.
The claim was plastered on buses during the EU referendum campaign and prime minister Theresa May has said the new funding for the health service will in part come from this “Brexit dividend”.
But May’s promise last month to boost NHS coffers by £20 billion a year was deemed insufficient by sector analysts who say it’s not enough, following years of underfunding.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Council council chair, said: “We congratulate Mr Hancock on his appointment and look forward to working constructively with him on the development of health policies to ensure safe, high quality patient care.
“While there is a new secretary of state, the challenges the health service faces remain the same. Patients are facing longer waits for care, so-called ‘winter pressures’ in the NHS are now hitting the service all year round, and it lacks doctors, nurses, and beds.”
“This appointment comes at a crucial time for the health service and doctors want to see the new secretary of state put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the future, address the serious funding shortfall and ensure we can recruit and retain the right number of doctors, with the right support and infrastructure, to deliver high quality care for patients.”
Cheshire-born Hancock, 39, was appointed digital, culture, media and sport secretary in January. He had been a junior minister in the department since July 2016.
He holds degrees from Oxford and Cambridge and was an economist for the Bank of England before becoming an economic advisor (and later Chief of Staff) to former chancellor George Osborne.
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