Jeremy Hunt on The Provider Podcast: we must be prepared to deal with future shocks
22 April 2021
Jeremy Hunt has praised the "enormous achievement" of the NHS' response to COVID-19, but – speaking on NHS Providers' The Provider Podcast – he says we must build in capacity to deal with these shocks, which means training enough doctors and nurses for the future.
In this final episode of our COVID-19 One Year On series the former secretary of state for health and social care, now chair of the health and social care committee, reflects on the impact of the pandemic, the future of the NHS including the government's planned legislative reforms, and his own journey from overseeing the health service to becoming, arguably, its foremost inquisitor.
While describing the COVID-19 vaccination programme as "our greatest triumph", he criticises the UK's failure to take early decisive steps to curb the virus, following a "zero-COVID strategy" in the manner pursued by east Asian democracies such as Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Had we done so, he says, "undoubtedly many lives would have been saved".
Other highlights include:
- the impact of "blind spots" in scientific thinking that equated pandemics with flu, leaving the UK "brutally exposed"
- the value of a "national" health service in responding to COVID-19, where the absence of a profit motive means "everyone is in it for the common good"
- the urgent need for a 10-year plan for social care, because "everyone understands that the NHS can't have a rosy future without a solution to social care"
- the reasons why workforce planning tends to be the "last item on the list" in conversations between the department of health and social care and the treasury, and how that must change
- the choice facing society about whether we want high quality health and social care, and the desire of the British people for the necessary investment to be made.
Jeremy Hunt also praises the government's recent white paper on NHS reform but highlights "glaring omissions" on social care and workforce planning, and emphasises the importance of ensuring the continued operational and clinical independence of the NHS.
Discussing his transition from secretary of state to select committee chair, he talks about the opportunity both roles have presented in furthering his commitment to patient safety and quality of care.
He is joined in the conversation by NHS Providers' chief executive, Chris Hopson, who emphasises the importance of the forthcoming spending review in tackling some of the key concerns raised in the discussion, in particular the continuing mismatch between demand for care and the resources available, at a time of tight public spending constraints.