Jeremy Hunt is now the longest-serving Health Secretary since the NHS was founded in 1948 – and he is perhaps one of the most controversial.
The Conservative MP will have notched up 2,100 day in the post on Monday June 4, putting him ahead of fellow Conservative politician Norman Fowler, who served in the role from 1981 to 1987.
The longest-serving Labour Health Secretary was the man who helped bring the NHS into existence, Aneurin Bevan, who took on the role after the second world war in 1945, and held it until January 1951.
While Hunt has not always been popular with the medical profession, he has spoken of his commitment to the job. In a flurry of cabinet moves in the 2017 post-election reshuffled, Hunt reportedly told Prime Minister Theresa May he should not be moved elsewhere, because “a captain does not abandon his ship”.
Here are some of the key moments from his record-breaking tenure as Health Secretary...
2012: Hunt’s abortion comments
September 4: Jeremy Hunt was appointed as Health Secretary by David Cameron. Within weeks he provoked uproar from politicians on all sides when he said the time limit for abortions should be reduced from 24 to 12 weeks. His aides were quick reiterate that was just Hunt’s personal view, and would not become Government policy.
2013: a vote of no confidence
June: The British Medical Association passed a vote of no confidence in Hunt at its annual conference. Dr Jacky Davis, an executive member of the National Health Action party, said that Hunt was leading the Government’s “ideological attack on the service and on staff” and was “at the forefront of a new political blame game, blaming frontline NHS staff for the predictable chaos resulting from his Government’s reforms and cuts.”
October: Hunt faces embarrassment as judges uphold a ruling claiming his planned cutting of A&E and maternity services in south London were illegal. Despite the decision, Hunt was unrepentant, and said: “I completely understand why the residents of Lewisham did not want any change in their A&E services, but my job as health secretary is to protect patients across south London – and doctors said these proposals would save lives.”
2014: the pay strikes begin
June: The number of people waiting for NHS treatment hit three million for the first time since 2008. Official figures from NHS England show that in April 2014 a total of 2,993,108 patients were on the waiting list for treatment, but the real number was predicted to be more than three million because six hospital trusts did not submit data due to computer problems.
October: Thousands of NHS staff, including nurses, midwives and ambulance drivers, went on strike over pay for the first time in more than 30 years. The action was taken after Hunt blocked a recommended 1% pay rise for all staff.
November: In a break with NHS advice, Hunt admits he took his children to A&E instead of the GP during a weekend as he “did not want to wait”. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said it was “highly problematic” for Hunt to suggest people should “bypass GPs and go straight to A&E”.
2015: weekend working woes
July: NHS staff use the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy to hit back at claims the NHS is not a full 24/7 operation. Hunt’s claim that patients are more likely to die at the weekend due to fewer staff becomes a huge and ongoing issue between and the medical profession.
July: During a visit to University College London Hospital, Hunt tweeted a picture of himself with a whiteboard in the background showing medical details of a patient. He is accused of breaching patient confidentiality. An edited version of the photo is reuploaded.
2016: the row with junior doctors
January: A row with junior doctors over a new contract came to a head, as medics walk out of work – leading to the postponement of about one in ten routine treatments. Hunt wanted to change how junior doctors were paid, giving them more money as part of their regular pay, but cutting back extra cash for working unsociable hours. After talks between Hunt and the British Medical Association repeatedly broke down, the Health Secretary imposed the contract on junior doctors in October.
February: Hunt faced criticism after suggesting parents worried that their child has meningitis should consult photos of rashes online to decide “whether this is serious or not” before visiting a doctor.
2017: winter cancellations
January: Hunt apologises to thousands of people who had operations cancelled as hospitals struggled to cope with winter pressure. He said the the situation was “absolutely not what I want”, adding: “If you are someone whose operation has been delayed I don’t belittle that for one moment, and indeed I apologise to everyone who that has happened to.”
2018: Hunt takes on Trump
February: Hunt takes to Twitter to defend the NHS from criticism from US President Donald Trump, who had claimed people were marching in London to protest against the UK’s healthcare system. He said: “I may disagree with claims made on that march but not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m people have no cover. NHS may have challenges but I’m proud to be from the country that invented universal coverage - where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance.”