I want to use my experience to tackle the big issues facing the NHS
My four priority areas for the Health and Social Care Committee will be mental health, social care, the workforce, and patient safety, writes Jeremy Hunt MP
Two years after relinquishing responsibility for the NHS I am standing to be chair of the Health and Social Care Committee because I remain passionate about securing its future.
Securing its largest ever funding settlement is my proudest political achievement. But too often NHS delivery doesn’t match the high expectations we place on it. So I want to help Parliament secure positive and lasting change for the service we all care so deeply about.
I was the longest-serving health secretary, and this experience of doing the job for so long is what makes me best-placed to ask the searching questions that will truly hold the Government to account.
Too often, party politics prevents us from having the right debates about the NHS. Throughout my career I have always tried to minimise this and focus on what matters. So I will have four priority areas if elected.
The NHS has made strides towards parity of funding and treatment for mental health conditions but many – particularly young people – wait too long for a diagnosis and treatment, and there is still too much stigma around mental health.
Unless we expand the capacity of the mental health system, the Government will not meet its objectives and patients will continue to feel let down. So I want the committee to do an annual report on government progress in this area.
We will never end the annual cycle of winter crises until we look after people better in the community. But there is still no sign of the radical and ambitious plans we need to overhaul social care. It will be expensive but without it we will let down both older people and the vulnerable adults who depend on it.
I want the committee to lead the way in scrutinising the proposals that come forward to make sure we finally get this right.
As the longest-serving health secretary, I’m best-placed to ask the searching questions
There was much debate in the election about the pledge for 50,000 additional nurses. In truth the NHS has never been good at long-term workforce planning which is why demand pressures mean it is currently bursting at the seams.
I want the committee to make sure the NHS and social care system implements a 10-year workforce plan so we can look hard-pressed staff in the eye and say there is a solution in sight.
I had to deal with Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay and Southern Health. But the terrible scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust shows we can never take our eye off the ball when it comes to patient safety.
We need to end the blame culture that makes it so difficult for NHS staff to be open about mistakes and replace it with a learning culture that means problems are addressed quickly and not swept under the carpet.
This Parliament should be a decisive one for tackling the big issues facing the NHS. I want to use my experience to make sure this is exactly what happens.
Jeremy Hunt is Conservative MP for South West Surrey
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