Philip Hammond blocked 10-year plan for social care as chancellor, says former health secretary

Shaun Lintern
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt is bidding to become chair of the House of Commons health select committee: EPA

A bid to draw up a 10-year-plan for social care by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt was blocked by the then chancellor Philip Hammond, Mr Hunt has said.

In an interview with the Health Service Journal, Mr Hunt, the country’s longest-serving health secretary, said the task of solving the UK’s social care crisis was “unfinished business” from his time as health minister.

His comments come as the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has come under pressure to come up with a social care plan after having to backtrack following a BBC interview last week in which he claimed he had a worked-up plan. The Tories have pledged to develop a cross party consensus on social care, which is facing a £4.4bn funding gap by 2023-24.

Mr Hunt is bidding to be elected chair of the House of Commons’ influential health and social care select committee next week, and told the HSJ he had wanted to produce a 10-year plan for social care to match one drawn up for the NHS in 2018.

The South West Surrey MP said this was “blocked” by the then chancellor, Phillip Hammond.

Speaking to The Independent he said the plan was axed on cost grounds adding: “The political pressure is never as great for social care funding but the reality is additional NHS funding will be wasted if we don’t sort out social care.”

The Independent has contacted Mr Hammond for comment.

The Conservatives ditched plans for a so-called dementia tax to pay for social care during the 2017 general election campaign which cost Theresa May her majority in Parliament.

Mr Hunt, who ran against Boris Johnson for leadership of the Conservative Party, served as health secretary for almost six years and intends to maintain a focus on patient safety from the back benches.

He has revealed plans to set up a patient safety charity and believes the role of health committee chair will help keep pressure on the government around improving patient safety.

“I do want more focus on the quality and, particularly, the patient safety agendas,” he told HSJ, adding it was important the issue was given as much attention as increasing access and waiting times.

Mr Hunt claimed the NHS was now “safer” than in the past, but he warned he was “sure there are other Mid Staffs and Shrewsbury and Telfords out there”.

His two other priorities as committee chair would be mental health and social care he said, arguing the NHS could a “world leader” in mental health but had yet to seize the opportunity.

If elected committee chair, Mr Hunt will face leading many investigations into the consequences of his own policies and decisions while health secretary.

He said he was committed to being “completely honest” about mistakes he had made and added he acknowledged he had made errors in handling the junior doctors dispute in 2016.

He said there was now a major difference between his time in office and the debate facing the NHS, in that during his tenure “most of the time, we didn’t have enough money” but he said the government’s investment now meant the debate was “about how we use that money”.

MPs will vote to elect a Conservative MP to the health committee chair on 29 January.

Former health minister Dan Poulter MP, a medical consultant, and Anne Marie Morris MP are also standing.

Read more

Long NHS waits help drive more patients to pay for private surgery

Threatened A&E target has helped save 15,000 lives a year, says IFS

Staffing shortages in NHS stroke units putting lives at risk