Jeremy Hunt has not only retained his role as Health Secretary after the Cabinet Reshuffle, but also sees his brief expanded to include Social Care.
The move confirms Number 10’s desire to integrate health and social care into one department – the now newly named Department for Health and Social Care.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said she looked forward to continuing to work with the department to ensure ‘safe and effective care’ – something that Mr Hunt made a priority when taking office in 2012 – but warned that the service needed ‘enough registered nurses and nursing staff so that our health and social care system in England is fit for the future.’
If he survives until the summer, Mr Hunt will become the longest serving Secretary of State for Health since records began.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Hunt said that he was ‘Delighted to be appointed to the job I love for the fifth time’.
Before his exit from Downing Street with an expanded role, Mr Hunt was tipped to be replaced by Anne Milton, MP for Guildford and a former palliative care nurse.
Despite considerable speculation about his future, Mr Hunt has not only avoided a move, but has seen his powers increased and will soon go about launching a government green paper on social care.
He will be joined by two new junior ministers, Stephen Barclay MP and Caroline Dinenage MP, who will add to his team at the Department of Health, which includes parliamentary undersecretaries Lord O’Shaughnessy and Jackie Doyle-Price MP. Collectively, they will help him go about the process of integration and launching of the green paper.
In reference to his new title, Mr Hunt tweeted: ‘How we treat the elderly is the litmus test of a civilised society. The health and social care systems are umbilically linked, so putting leadership in one govt department makes sense as a first step ahead of a vital green paper.’
The integration of health and social care has long been seen by many commentators to be a panacea for many of the health service’s problems. If done effectively, it could speed-up discharge rates while reducing the level of hospital admissions, freeing up funding for other services.
Janet Davies said: ‘With the Secretary of State’s remit expanded to include social care, we look forward to the benefits more effective integration of health and social care services will bring patients.’