Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Hunt’

Jeremy Hunt’s response to Francis will penalise patients while protecting the bureaucrats who cover up abuses

21/11/2013, 03:20:56 PM

by Sam Fowles

I really miss the days when the worst we thought Jeremy Hunt could do to the NHS was privatise it. At least you knew what you were getting with privatisation. But what Mr Hunt is doing, incredibly, manages to be worse. It is an act of legislative contortion which would have done credit to Mitt Romney on his most pliable days: In an (apparent) attempt to “get tough” on standards and ensure the high quality of the NHS, Mr Hunt has made certain that it cannot possibly offer anything but a substandard service.

At least one can see a logical argument of privatising the NHS. It may be exceptionally wrongheaded, but the case has a logical progression: Competing providers will force standards up as a result of their competition for consumers. The problem with this is, of course, that demand for healthcare is inherently almost completely elastic. As such, the impact of market forces on quality and price of provision will only ever be exceptionally limited, leading to monopolistic tendencies and, inevitably, substandard service. But at least there is a justification based on some sort of reasoned analysis.

Mr Hunt’s response to the Francis Report is a masterclass in irrationality.

One of the central issues in the report was poor patient care. Beds were not changed, patients were not fed; essentially the care and attention necessary for a decent quality of existence were absent. Unless the nurses at Mid Staffs spent their days playing scrabble and watching repeats of Monarch of the Glen (in my experience, pretty much the only thing on hospital television) one might perhaps assume that neglect is a function of understaffing. Stunningly this was also one of the conclusions of the Francis review.

Much of the review focused on governance issues, particularly regarding oversight organisations and community engagement (which Mr Hunt’s substantive proposals have singularly failed to address). Those sections which concentrated on the day to day running of wards recommended a more labour and resource intensive model. This is hardly surprising. One doesn’t have to be an expert in healthcare management to realise that if, as a patient, you get more focused attention more of the time, you’re going to have a better experience. The logical corollary of this is that, if everyone is to have more focused attention more of the time then the hospital might need to employ more people to provide it.


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NHS: demotivating workers risks lives

30/07/2013, 02:05:52 PM

by Sarah Rabbitts

On Thursday 11 July, the axe of Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Health Secretary, fell on yet another A&E. In an impromptu announcement to the House, Hunt confirmed cuts to Trafford General Hospital which even took Kate Green MP by surprise. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), Hunt explained, had finally chosen to downgrade Trafford A&E services to an urgent care centre that will be closed from midnight to 8am everyday.

Labour supporters will always be protective of the NHS. Labour created it in 1946, and it’s one of the most formidable successes of a British Labour government. It’s an even greater success if you look at the backlash Obama faced enforcing public healthcare in the US – despite being popular in his first term.

However, this is not just about protecting something that Labour established. The issue is that reducing the wrong healthcare services puts people’s lives at risk, and no one in Britain really wants to live in a country in which we invoice the under-privileged £150,000 for cancer treatment because they can’t afford healthcare insurance. That’s the reality if we don’t protect the NHS.

Under this government, Lambeth’s funding has been cut by 45% in total. This is damaging local authority provided services, like social care and leisure – the services which help the council keep people healthy and out of hospital. In addition, the government has scrapped minimum nutrition standards in schools leading many “free” schools and academies to feed their pupils junk worsening a health crisis that’s already putting a burden on our NHS.

Lambeth’s NHS specific budget cuts have inevitably lead to longer waits, fewer nurses and midwives. In addition, Hunt approved the closure of Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, despite a passionate local campaign. This is now putting massive pressure on King’s College Hospital in Lambeth, who are accepting more patients.

I have advised a number of companies on employee engagement during periods of organisational change. I’m confident that taking away annual salary increases and intensive training will de-motivate workers and will probably jeopardise employee performance in the NHS, and inevitably patient care. Recent reports, for instance, that Healthcare Assistants are being trained with DVD tutorials are also worrying, especially if it is right that these workers will be expected to take on greater responsibilities.


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The Royal College of Nursing has forgotten about the victims in their response to Mid Staffs

25/04/2013, 07:00:15 AM

by Peter Watt

One of the lessons of the Mid Staffs hospital scandal should be that those involved in the delivery of health care should show some humility.  But humility doesn’t seem to be something that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is familiar with.

Let’s face it, if a single hospital can be found to have between 400 and 1200 deaths caused by poor care between January 2005 and March 2009 then something has gone wrong.  The fact that subsequently a raft of other hospitals are being looked at adds to the strong sense of a system that isn’t working.  As David Cameron rather too eagerly reminded Ed Miliband at PMQs yesterday, this happened under a Labour government at a time of rapid growth in spending on the NHS.  This wasn’t a time of cuts – quite the contrary.

The Francis report was a comprehensive review of what went wrong at Mid Staffs and its conclusions were damning.  Blame was shared across a number of fronts:

  • A bullying culture in the NHS so that those expressing concern were silenced and others were too fearful to speak;
  • A focus on healthy finances rather than the health of patients;
  • Regulators not regulating properly – in fact not noticing that anything was wrong;
  • Managers not managing effectively;
  • The disorganisation of reorganisation after reorganisation.

So there were plenty who should be a little humble from the Labour party itself to the department of health.  But there is another group who need to take a good long hard look at themselves: nurses.  Because one of the other key problems identified was that there were nurses who were not good enough.

Now this obviously does not mean that all nurses are poor or that they do not care about patients. I had a message from a friend the other day who had just finished a 12 hour nursing shift with only a twenty minute break.  So there are thankfully plenty of dedicated, caring and compassionate nurses often working many long hours to ensure that their patients are cared for.

But what is also blindingly obvious is that a report into poor care that causes hundreds of deaths will find that some nurses got things badly wrong.  And they did.  As the Guardian reported of the Francis report:


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How twitter and Leveson have destroyed the government’s media strategy

01/06/2012, 07:00:45 AM

by Atul Hatwal

So he’s still got a job. Jeremy Hunt hangs on, defying political gravity. His performance yesterday at Leveson was woeful. Between the further revelations of his simpering texts to James Murdoch and near tearful demeanour, it was by any standards, a dreadful day for the Tory.

But despite all of this, thanks to some catastrophic media management choices made at the top of the government, Jeremy Hunt is still standing.

It’s almost possible to see the meeting: Craig Oliver, Gabby Bertin, George Osborne, all sat round the table at their morning huddle. Yes, it is going to be tough. Yes the evidence is damning. But the public don’t get the detail of Leveson. They just think all politicians are in hock to Murdoch and besides, as long as Hunt stays in post, he remains the story.

Which means David Cameron is not.

This was the rationale behind the PM’s decision to continue backing his critically compromised secretary of state for culture, media and sport: a whole-hearted vote of confidence in his personal, human shield.

In one sense the government media panjandrums are right. David Cameron is nowhere to be found in today’s headlines. It’s all Hunt. But everything has a price to pay, and in this case it is the collective confidence of the lobby journalists.

Although individual newspapers are no longer as influential as in the past – it’s unlikely that the Sun will ever again be the one wot won it– the club of parliamentary journalists still wields massive power when they form a common view.

On these occasions, this shared perspective becomes the lens through which all news, print, broadcast and online,  is projected.

For the government, after just two years in office, such a view has formed. The leitmotif in the lobby narrative on the government’s media strategy is now incompetence.

It colours all reporting and increasingly undermines the government’s ability to run the news cycle. Positive stories are treated with suspicion, negative stories with credibility. For Labour, it took over a decade to reach this nadir.


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Hunt memo proves David Cameron manipulated the BSkyB bid process to favour the Murdochs

25/05/2012, 09:27:51 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Although the media focus this morning is still on Jeremy Hunt, the real story should be about David Cameron’s conduct.  The reason? The already infamous Hunt memo to Cameron, from November 2010, is a game-changer.

For the first time there is clear evidence that the prime minister, as opposed to a junior cabinet minister or special adviser, directly manipulated the quasi-judicial process considering News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, in favour of the Murdochs.

When David Cameron stripped Vince Cable of responsibility for adjudicating on the bid in December 2010, he understood he would face a problem in simply handing over the process to Jeremy Hunt at DCMS.

Hunt was well-known as an admirer of News Corporation: while in opposition he had given a breathless interview to Broadcast magazine where he had eulogised about Rupert Murdoch,

“Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day”.

Shortly after Hunt became secretary of state, he had followed-up in June 2010 in an interview with the Financial Times where he speculated on the BSkyB bid,

“It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change, but I don’t want to second guess what regulators might decide.”

Cameron knew these comments would inevitably surface and be used by Labour to challenge Hunt’s ability to manage the process impartially. The prime minister needed cover for his decision and turned to his cabinet secretary, who duly obliged.


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Flashman feels the pressure

30/04/2012, 05:30:40 PM

by Sanjay Patel

Red-faced, splenetic and in a corner. That’s where David Cameron finds himself after his Commons performance today.

There’s little doubt, this was the angriest David Cameron has been at the despatch box. That nice, mild mannered, likeable chap who hugged a huskie (or something like that) was nowhere to be seen. As ever when rattled, Cameron gave into his emotion, he channelled it. And as so often when a politician indulges in a response riven with emotion, tipped over into parody.

The Tory MPs might have liked what they heard and bayed for more, but it won’t look like that on the news. The lasting image will be of Flashman hurling invective across the floor of the House, sneering at Dennis Skinner to claim his pension.


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The polling that explains why Ed Miliband is right to lead on Hunt

30/04/2012, 07:00:04 AM

by Atul Hatwal

What’s the best attack on the Tories? For Ed Miliband, the fate of Jeremy Hunt has been the priority, apparently at the expense of highlighting the return of recession.

Commentators from all sides of the left have been critical: most voters already think all politicians are far too close to the media barons. The Hunt affair only confirms this and expending valuable political time on the intricacies of the Ministerial code instead of hammering home Tory failure on the recession totally misses the point.

It’s an understandable view. But wrong.

Jeremy Hunt is small fry. This issue is actually about leadership, David Cameron’s and Ed Miliband’s.

If the Labour leader has a single task to achieve before the next election, he must to narrow the gap with David Cameron on who the voters prefer as prime minister.

To understand the scale of challenge, it’s worth reflecting on a salutary fact: at the last general election on May 3rd, YouGov surveyed people on their preference for prime minister. Gordon Brown was the choice of 26% with David Cameron on 32%. In the nineteen months of his leadership, across 40 polls, Ed Milband has never bettered Gordon Brown’s dismal benchmark.

Huntgate gives Miliband an opportunity to help change the way that the public looks at him, and David Cameron.


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David Cameron’s political judgement makes him the real Hunt of this story

25/04/2012, 07:10:40 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Why does Jeremy Hunt still have a job? His holding statement last night was so full of holes it could be used to sieve the peas.

Hunt’s words were carefully chosen, and as ever when politicians’ parse, it is what is not explicitly ruled out that counts:  “some of the evidence reported meetings and conversations that simply didn’t happen “.

So, some of the meetings and conversations did happen.

That’s enough. A cursory reading of the e-mails suggests that for Hunt to survive, Frédéric Michel would have had to have been a complete fantasist. Jeremy Hunt has already said he is not.

The depth of trouble in which Hunt finds himself can be gauged by the way the Leveson cache of e-mails is being reported: almost always with a prefix such as “devastating”, in the same way Andrew Lansley is normally “gaffe-prone” or “under pressure”.

Naturally, Jeremy Hunt thinks he can ride out the storm. After spending the best part of the past two decades scrambling to climb the greasy political pole (so to speak), he and his advisers will desperately be looking for a way through the minefield. It’s an understandable human reaction.

But what makes less sense is the response from Number 10.

Quite apart from the substance of the issue and the appalling privileged influence that the Murdochs clearly enjoyed, there is something potentially even more damaging in the Downing street reaction, certainly in the medium term: their failure of political judgement.


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Neck deep in News Corp: damning letter to Sir Gus O’Donnell

23/12/2010, 02:17:31 PM

Sir Gus O’Donnell

Cabinet Secretary

Cabinet Office

70 Whitehall



23 December 2010

Dear Gus,

I have written to you several times in the past few weeks about matters of propriety and the ethics of government. I am now writing to ask about such matters again, this time in relation to the behaviour and statements of Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt regarding News Corp.

1. Vince Cable

Vince Cable was revealed, in a tape recording which the nation has heard, to have been explicitly intending to abuse his position in the most extraordinary way. He was planning, while pretending quasi-judicial impartiality, to make an entirely political ruling without regard to the facts or to Ofcom advice.

How does removing him from this particular decision alter his unsuitability for office? How can he be considered a fit and proper person to take decisions about the rest of the nation’s business, industry and higher education?

I would be grateful to know whether and what advice you gave the Prime Minister about Vince Cable’s suitability to remain in office in light of his intention to pervert the proper processes of government.

2. Jeremy Hunt

It has been revealed today that a DCMS official confirmed Jeremy Hunt met James Murdoch on 28 June – shortly after News Corp made its takeover bid to buy the remaining 61 per cent of BSkyB. The spokesperson said: “I can confirm that this was an informal first meeting between Jeremy Hunt as secretary of state and James Murdoch, and there was no written agenda or briefing. Officials did not sit in on the meeting”.

The official also stated that a second meeting took place between Mr Hunt and Jeremy Darroch, BSkyB’s chief executive, on 21 July where no minutes were taken either; and that an unnamed civil servant had warned Mr Hunt that Mr Darroch was likely to ask about changes to media regulation.

And yet, in a written Parliamentary answer on this matter, I was told that no formal meetings had taken place with either James Murdoch or other representatives of News International (17852). (more…)

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Ignorant, hypocritical buffoon. And worse. Cable must go.

22/12/2010, 10:44:15 AM

by Tom Watson

I like the guy. I held out hope he might end up being the axle of progressive politics in Britain. Yet it’s hard to resist the urge to slap Vince Cable around the chops.

Six months into the Conservative-led government, he’s left himself looking like, and let’s not mince words, he looks like a cock. What a total ignoramus. What a self-indulgent buffoon. What a hypocrite. For the protection of his own dignity, he should resign.

There are two winners out of this episode: David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch.

Here’s what Jeremy Hunt recently said in Broadcast magazine about Rupert Murdoch:

“Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day.

We would be the poorer and wouldn’t be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn’t been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk. We need to encourage that kind of investment”.

Here’s what independent media analyst, Clair Enders recently said:

“Somewhere between 2015 and 2020, News International, Sky will control 50% of the newspaper and television markets respectively…..They will have a force de frappe which none of their competitors can match, while the BBC’s income will be negotiated downwards, and ITV simply lives with the ebb and flow of the advertising market”.

So, the company that hacked the phones of the royal princes will own half the newspaper and television market in Britain. If this was Zimbabwe, we’d be sending resolutions to the United Nations about it. It’s not though, and Jeremy Hunt, easily the most ambitious member of the cabinet, will make the decision.

That’s why Cable has to go. He can’t do his job. We trusted that he would do the right thing. Faced with the indisputable truth about media plurality in Britain we were counting on him to face down all opposition and for the first time in decades, stand up to Rupert Murdoch. And now he can’t.

Do you think that Jeremy Hunt, having said what he said about Rupert Murdoch, is going to go against his instincts and turn down News Corp’s bid for complete control of Sky? No. Neither do I.

Like Clare Short in Tony Blair’s administration after the resignation of Robin Cook, Cable’s days are numbered. I can’t understand how he can allow the public humiliation to last longer than today. But ministerial office does that to some people. They can’t let it go.

In choosing a slow lingering death, Cable has further weakened Clegg and the coaltion partners, though they appear too frightened and stupid to know this.

It’s inevitable. He’s broken one of the rules of being a minister. It’s probably the third rule concerning standards in public life. The one that says:?

“In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.”

We’ll no doubt be arguing about this for days to come, but we already know that Cable has broken the even bigger rule of ministerial life: don’t believe the hype. His own ego has destroyed him.

The Cable incident is another unforced error from a ragged government. Paradoxically, it helps Cameron as he strengthens his grip on a coalition government that has been shown to be paralysed by disagreement and personal loathing between ministers.

My God, what a mess though. And we’re only six months in.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East

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