NEWS & Views

Must Do Better


The Westminster Christmas recess (20th December to 7th January for MPs; 19th December to 8th January for Peers) always gives pundits and politicos a chance to write "end of term" reports on Ministers and Departments.

I shall attempt to get in there first with a view on how Jeremy Hunt has performed as Health Secretary since being given that portfolio just over three months ago.

What’s most striking is that Mr Hunt has not carried out the task that was widely mooted as the reason he got the job – namely, using his bedside manner to soothe NHS staff after the clashes which occurred when his predecessor Andrew Lansley was pushing through controversial reforms.

In fact, what hasn’t been largely commented on is that from his very first speech as Health Secretary at this year’s Conservative Party Conference, Mr Hunt has challenged NHS staff to do better. Indeed, this week began with Mr Hunt saying that he fears that “pockets” of dangerously substandard care may still exist in the NHS and could lead to a repeat of the scandal at Mid Staffordshire Hospital.

Moreover (and in keeping with the end of term report theme), last week Mr Hunt announced that hospitals may start receiving Ofsted-style ratings to beef up the way in which they are judged, and has commissioned Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Dr Jennifer Dixon to conduct a review into the viability of the proposal.

This all underlines just how not only the Health Secretary but also Conservative Ministers across the Government arguably perceive themselves – they are not the Chairs/CEOs of large state enterprises, but are instead consumer champions for the sectors they sit atop of.

The same can be seen in the work of Education Secretary Michael Gove, who when presented with poor performing schools has argued that their results underline the need for freeing institutions from Central or Local Government control, making them more autonomous and challenging them to use their new freedoms to innovate and up their game.

Will any of this work? You’ll probably form a view depending on what data you use and which commentators you listen to.

But one thing is clear, when Ministers come to write their end of term reports for the Departments, agencies and services which they oversee, the verdict is highly likely to be “must do better”.

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Author

Chris Calland

Account Director

A finalist in the 2008 Public Affairs News Awards Newcomer of the Year category, Chris joined PLMR shortly after our inception in 2006 and is a key team member in providing Public Affairs, PR, Media and Campaign advice.Chris has day-to-day responsibility for handling political and media relations (including with local, national and trade press) on behalf of some of PLMR...

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