‘Control freak’ Jeremy Hunt accused of manipulating NHS for political ends

Sir Bruce Keogh,

Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’s medical director, is stated to have clashed with Jeremy Hunt. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

The overall health secretary Jeremy Hunt has had a series of standoffs and rows with NHS leaders amid claims from senior figures in the services that he is an interfering “control freak” who is striving to manipulate it for political functions.

Senior NHS figures have advised the Guardian privately of their fears that Hunt has torn up the coalition’s pledges to “liberate” the NHS from political manage and make it operationally independent.

It is understood that Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’s health-related director, had to personally instruct Hunt not to announce his blueprint for restructuring A&ampE solutions in a highly charged experience amongst the two last November.

Keogh and senior colleagues at NHS England, which is meant to be independent of Hunt’s Department of Wellness, were annoyed that Hunt appeared to want to hijack Keogh’s program to announce the overhaul by unveiling the information himself first.

“Bruce essentially took the secretary of state to one side and stated ‘bugger off’. There were some reasonably tense conversations amongst Bruce and Jeremy Hunt at that time,” explained an NHS supply.

NHS England leaders were also annoyed that when Hunt announced that hospitals in England would get an further £250m to assist their A&ampE departments cope with the winter, he gave them really minor credit score, even however they provided the cash.

But Hunt and the division declined to react right to claims by NHS figures that he is improperly “controlling” the support that is supposed to be run at arm’s length following the controversial reforms instituted by his predecessor, Andrew Lansley. The Division of Overall health argues that he was doing the work anticipated of him.

A Department of Wellness spokesman explained: “Jeremy Hunt tends to make no apology for taking a near interest in the efficiency of the NHS more than winter, or certainly throughout the 12 months. He is accountable to patients and to parliament and the public would count on practically nothing much less.”

Sources also say Hunt’s staff also “leaned on” Anne Rainsberry, the chief executive of the component of NHS England accountable for London, to consider to quit a controversial reorganisation of hospital services in north-west London due to the fact the prime minister was anxious about the downgrading of many A&ampE units in the region.

Rainsberry assisted thwart that intervention by ensuring that health-related directors of the eight NHS hospital trusts concerned and the GP chairs of the eight clinical commissioning groups in the region wrote to Hunt outlining their help for the move. He later championed the shakeup as excellent for patient care.

Senior NHS figures also disclosed that they resent how Hunt holds twice-weekly meetings with the leaders of NHS England and two other important NHS organisations at which he directs them to search into issues of concern, supply more data, kind out troubles and report back.

Normal “NHS delivery” meetings on Mondays target on crucial locations of NHS performance this kind of as A&ampE waiting instances and fiscal difficulties, although the Thursday afternoon meetings instituted final October have concentrated on ensuring the services functions nicely for the duration of the winter.

Leaders of NHS England, Monitor, which regulates foundation believe in hospitals, and the NHS Believe in Improvement Authority (TDA), an arm of the Department of Wellness that oversees all other trusts, routinely attend the meetings.

Nonetheless, some who do so, specifically at NHS England, truly feel Hunt is improperly impinging on their freedom, particularly in light of the autonomy they are supposed to have.

Sources speaking on problem of anonymity declare he is “micro-managing” the NHS, a practice the coalition explicitly promised to end.

But the Department of Overall health explained that Hunt was entitled to hold this kind of meetings. “It is absolutely correct that he has regular updates from the essential NHS organisations and the opportunity to go over their strategies,” it additional.

When Hunt began straight calling bosses of hospitals that were not meeting A&ampE targets final November, David Prior, the chairman of the Care Quality Commission NHS regulator and a former Conservative MP, explained the overall health secretary was “crazy” and criticised his “obsession” with targets.

Managers in important NHS organisations this kind of as NHS England and the TDA come to feel they are becoming “walked more than” as a consequence of Hunt’s really hands-on style, in accordance to the head of their trade union.

Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership, mentioned: “They are really concerned. They really feel they are becoming walked more than by the Division of Well being and that some of their independence is being ignored.”

Concern extends to some of the members of NHS England’s board. Lord Adebowale, one particular of the organisation’s nonexecutive directors, mentioned the balance of electrical power amongst it and Hunt is a lead to of concern.

“I have always stated it would be tough to deal with the strategic partnership among the NHS and the secretary of state [after the NHS reforms], offered his duty to parliament,” he said.

“It really is a challenge, it truly is bound to be, managing that connection. Of program it is anything I worry about as a nonexecutive director.” Hunt was flawlessly entitled to inquire for meetings with leaders of NHS England, he extra.

Andy Burnham, the shadow wellness secretary, claimed that Hunt “would seem to have forgotten voting to turn the NHS into the largest quango in the globe and now tries to disown the logic of his very own policy. He talks in public about ending political interference, but in practice spends an afternoon creating phone calls to chief executives of hospitals missing A&ampE targets.”

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