Introducing the new Health Secretary…

10 July 2018. Published by Genevieve Isherwood, Senior Associate

Who is Matt Hancock, our new Health Secretary, and what impact will his appointment have?

A turbulent week in politics (and football) has left us with a new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. After the surprise resignation of Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt was asked to take up the mantle of Foreign Secretary. This meant Matt Hancock, previously Culture Secretary, was appointed Health Secretary.

But what do we know about Hancock and his likely impact on the healthcare sector? Hancock, an Oxford graduate, was first elected as an MP for West Suffolk in 2010 and has previously worked as an economist at the Bank of England, and as George Osborne's Chief of Staff. The reshuffle represents a significant promotion for Hancock, who had been a Junior Minister up until January of this year (when he was appointed Culture Secretary).

In terms of his healthcare credentials, Hancock has no discernible background and no known connections to the NHS or any private providers. He has not mentioned GPs or Doctors once since he started in Parliament 8 years ago and there is no evidence healthcare has been a particular area of interest for him. Aside from his wife (who is an osteopath), it seems Hancock's connections to the sector are limited. It is therefore hard to predict whether his appointment will be a help or hindrance to those working within healthcare, and whether it will lead to any deviations from the current status quo.

We can, however, look at Hancock's voting record to give us a clue to what the future holds. Hancock has consistently voted for reforming the NHS (including giving more power to GPs to commission services, and the Government's 2011 NHS reorganisation). In 2011 he  voted against attempts to change the Government's NHS reform plans (including dropping the proposed market-based approach). It therefore appears Hancock has some appetite for introducing reform within the healthcare sector.

Hancock is a keen supporter of technology;  he even created his own app so his constituents can track what he is working on. He may therefore be a positive influence as the NHS seeks to modernise and increase its efficiency.

Hancock's appointment also marks the end of Jeremy Hunt's tenure. Hunt, who was the longest-serving Health Secretary, has recently been applauded for leading calls for a new funding package for the NHS to mark its 70th anniversary (which has resulted in an extra 3% a year for the NHS). However, Hunt has faced much criticism whilst in the role. This was particularly potent with regards to the controversial junior doctor's contract (which sparked the biggest walk-out of doctors in the NHS's history). Many, therefore, have been celebrating Hancock's appointment not for what he will bring to the role, but because it marks the end of Hunt's influence in the healthcare sector.

Ultimately, Hancock is a relative unknown in relation to healthcare and we will have to wait and see to determine what, if any, significant impact he will have on the sector.

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