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A Bewilderingly Long Timeline of Jeremy Hunt Screwing Up

A glittering career that, bizarrely, it's too soon to memorialise.

by Ruchira Sharma
04 July 2017, 12:21pm

Jeremy Chuffing Hunt (Neil Hall/PA Wire/PA Images)

Update, 5th June 2018: On Monday, Jeremy Hunt became Britain's longest standing Health Secretary, having served for five years and 274 days. To celebrate this outstanding achievement, we updated our list of epic screw-ups. Here's to another five years and 274 days!

I'm not sure exactly what moment it started feeling weird that Jeremy Hunt was still Health Secretary. Was it last week, when he was accused of being "asleep at the wheel" over a data scandal? Perhaps it was sooner that that; his imposition of a junior doctors' contract that saw novel and surprising strikes by those NHS workers who didn't simply quit or leave the country. Maybe it was the time he tweeted a selfie that had confidential patient data in the background, breaking their right to confidentiality? It's hard to pin down, because there are just so many of these scrapes, wheezes and capers!

And here it is: a fond look back at Jeremy Hunt's inexplicably long career as Health Secretary.

4 September 2012
Hunt becomes Health Secretary and immediately comes under fire for his previous endorsements of homeopathy, and for his attempt to remove a tribute to the NHS from the Olympics opening ceremony when he was Culture Secretary.

9 September 2012
Hunt personally intervenes to help Virgin Care take over some NHS services in his own constituency in Surrey. Andy Burnham says it is another example of Hunt pandering to private interests, and that never before had a Health Secretary "handed over his NHS lock, stock and barrel to the private sector".

6 October 2012
Hunt backs halving the legal time limit for an abortion from 24 weeks to 12. Dr Kate Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, warns that this will lead to women taking risks such as buying abortion pills online.

23 November 2012
An inquiry shows that NHS cost cutting means patients aren't given adequate care and respect. According to a watchdog, one in ten patients are denied respect and dignity, while 15 percent are not fed properly. This somewhat jars with the government's claim of hitting key NHS targets.

31 January 2013
25,000 attend a protest following Hunt's decision to downgrade an A&E ward in Lewisham but apparently retain 24/7 urgent care. Dr Louise Irvine, a local GP and chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, accuses Hunt of "proposing a glorified 24/7 GP practice".

19 March 2013
Hunt is accused of "grossly unfair" allocation of public health funding to tackle smoking and obesity. The City of London is set to receive £192 a head while the more deprived Liverpool will get £82 and Manchester £78. Waltham Forest in east London gets nearly five times less than the City, only receiving £42 per head.

24 June 2013
The British Medical Association's annual conference passes a vote of no confidence in Hunt following attempts to extend GP hours and adapt hospitals. Proposing the motion, Dr Jacky Davis says, "His main purpose seems to be criticising the service and undermining the staff."

31 July 2013
Courts rule that Hunt's previous attempts to downsize Lewisham's A&E and maternity wards are unlawful. The Secretary of State, Justice Silber, says that Hunt broke the National Health Services Act 2006 and acted outside of his powers.

10 September 2013
The Health Secretary is called out for wrongly claiming that the NHS is failing elderly patients. Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, says there is "blatantly no evidence" for Hunt's claim that, thanks to NHS contracts, A&E staff know patients better than GPs.

28 October 2013
Despite being deemed unlawful and a breach of the National Health Services Act 2006, Jeremy Hunt takes the Lewisham closures battle to the Court of Appeal.

29 October 2013
Hunt loses the battle. It is ruled, again, that he acted unlawfully in cutting A&E and maternity services in Lewisham.

13 March 2014
Unions threaten to strike, as Hunt backtracks on his promise to give an across-the-board 1 percent payrise to NHS staff. The Department of Health estimates it will save £200 million, or 0.18 percent of its annual budget, at the cost of pissing off 1.165 million NHS staff.

27 March 2014
Nick Clegg slams Hunt for his "medieval attitude" to the morning after pill, after saying allowing under-16s to pre-purchase it would encourage promiscuity.

14 July 2014
The Department of Health announces the decision to charge non-EU patients 150 percent of cost of treatment as this could save the health service up to £500 million a year and stop "abuse" of the system by migrants and visitors. Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association council, says it is not a doctor's duty to act as a border guard.

29 September 2014
The Royal College of Midwives votes 82 percent in favour of strike action over pay – the first time Midwives have ever voted to strike.

5 October 2014
Polls show that most Conservative MPs support an across-the-board pay rise for NHS staff, rejected by Jeremy Hunt. "That so many Conservative MPs are in favour of the pay award that has been rejected should sound alarm bells at the highest level," said Cathy Warwick, the Royal College of Midwife's chief executive.

13 October 2014
450,000 NHS staff walk out over pay in the first strike by health workers in 32 years.

16 July 2015
Hunt gives consultants an ultimatum to work on weekends and threatens to impose a contract if their union fails to reach an agreement with him by September. The BMA calls Hunt's threat a "wholesale attack on doctors".

18 July 2015
Hunt posts a picture on Twitter of him and some doctors, and behind them is a board with some identifiable patient details. He eventually edits the picture to blur the details out. The damage is done and Hunt faces a backlash for breaking patient confidentiality.

25 July 2015
Hunt quietly shelves a Tory manifesto promise to cap the cost of care for the elderly, delaying the policy until 2020. Not only has the U-turn caused taxpayers £100 million, but MPs and charities fear this will have a "devastating" effect on the elderly.

5 Oct 2015
Following government's decision to cut tax credits for some of the poorest families in the country, Hunt tells a Tory conference fringe meeting that, "British people will learn to work as hard as Chinese and Americans because the Conservatives have cut the money people can make from tax credits." He says the measure is an "important cultural symbol". A lot of people say this is an insult to Britain's hardworking families already struggling to get by.

A protest over junior doctors' contracts in 2016 (Photo by Chris Bethell)

14 October 2015
Doctors compile a dossier of at least 14 cases in which patients have been endangered by Hunt's claim that 24/7 emergency care isn't available. A number of patients apparently believe that they can't get after-hours help, stopping them seeking necessary medical attention.

8 October 2015
Afraid of a strike by 53,000 junior doctors, Hunt backtracks on junior doctor contract and provides concessions. He says there will be a pay cut and no extension on working hours.

28 October 2015
Hunt promises no junior doctors will see a pay cut under the new contract.

29 October 2015
Hunt admits a limited number of doctors will see a pay cut under the new contract.

3 November 2015
Following further strike threats, Hunt offers junior doctors an 11 percent rise in basic pay. They reject this, as changes to working hours mean it amounts to a pay cut.

19 November 2015
Hunt's claim that only 10 percent of patients are seen by a senior doctor on weekends within 14 hours is refuted by statisticians, who call the claim a gross underestimation. Junior doctors vote 98 percent in favour of striking on the 1st of December over the new contract.

1 December 2015
An 11th hour breakthrough averts the strike, but not before 4,000 patients had treatment delayed.

8 January 2016
Following allegations he helped to draft a letter from another official, asking what would have happened in Britain if an attack had happened and junior doctors were striking, Jeremy Hunt is accused of politicising the Paris attack in which a man wearing a fake explosive belt attacks police officers. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron says this is the lowest form of politics he has seen for the last few years.

28 January 2016
A judge tells Hunt to remove an inappropriate tweet in which he shares details about a hospital death trial and the comment "lessons must be learned". Lawyer Justice Coulson says, "It is highly inappropriate for anybody to pass comment which might be said to know the result of a trial before that result is known. I suppose, potentially, in a very serious case, it could be regarded as a contempt of court."

3 February 2016
Hunt advises parents to check their kid's' face rashes online, causing doctors to claim this is "potentially fatal".

11 February 2016
Hunt announces that he will force the new contract on junior doctors. The British Medical Association brands Hunt a "bully".

17 February 2016
It is revealed that the number of doctors who applied for work abroad surged 1,000 percent the day Hunt announced they would impose the new contract. The Health Secretary is accused of being a "recruiting agent" for Australian hospitals.


WATCH: 'Targeted Individuals', our documentary about the community of people who believe they're being tracked by the government.


26-27 April 2016
Another hospital strike over contracts sees over 125,000 procedures and operations cancelled. It's the first time in NHS history that maternity units are affected. A poll finds that a majority of people support the strike.

22 August 2016
Department of Health documents leaked to Channel 4 News and the Guardian highlight the proposed seven-day week for doctors caused concern from leading figures in the Department of Health, including senior civil servants.

29 November 2016
Hunt proposes a sexting ban on under-18s through the introduction of software that can detect when it is happening. Experts highlight the problems with monitoring this, while members of the Commons health committee suggest that this money ought to go towards suicide prevention instead.

9 January 2017
The British Red Cross describes a "humanitarian crisis" in Emergency Care in the NHS. Hunt refutes this, despite the fact that A&Es all over the country are overwhelmed. The target that people should be treated in four hours is ditched.

26 January 2017
Hunt fails on his promise to revolutionise catering in hospitals as it is announced that numerous hospitals have failed to implement key changes. The Department of Health reveals half of hospitals haven't improved patient catering like expected.

27 April 2017
Labour obtains legal advice that Hunt acted illegally by removing the 18-week treatment target. According to the counsel, Hunt acted unlawfully by not urging hospitals to treat the required 92 percent of patients within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP.

13 May 2017
Jeremy Hunt is accused of ignoring vital signs that led to an unprecedented cyber attack on the NHS. The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, says concerns had been flagged repeatedly about the NHS's outdated computer systems, which he says had left it vulnerable to the attack.

28 June 2017
A private company accuses Hunt of being "asleep at the wheel" due to a backlog of over 700,000 pieces of medical correspondence that were failed to be delivered to GPs. The health secretary is summoned to the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs after a damning report finds that the scandal may have harmed the health of at least 1,788 patients and has so far cost £6.6 million.

3 July 2017
Figures reveal that more midwives and nurses are leaving the NHS than entering. According to the findings, departures have increased 51 percent in the last four years. Unions say there is a shortage of 40,000 nurses and 3,500 midwives in England alone, and they – and NHS trusts – blame the pay cap and workplace pressures.

11 October 2017
Jeremy Hunt is forced to backtrack after making false claims regarding mental health on Mental Health Day. He told MPs: "We've got 30,000 more people working in mental health today than we had when [Labour] left office." In reality, this includes all NHS clinical staff in England, not just those working in mental health.

25 January 2018
Figures reveal A&E units had to divert patients to other hospitals 20 times in a week, and more than 11,000 patients had to be looked after by ambulance crews for at least half an hour before being able to go to A&E wards.

3 February 2018
The British Medical Association describe the number of GPs leaving their jobs as a "crisis". According to NHS Digital, the number of full-time equivalent GPs fell by 1,193 in the year up to October of 2017, compared to a drop of 97 the year before – despite the fact Hunt continues to promise an extra 5,000 by 2020.

8 February 2018
Jeremy Hunt admits the NHS winter crisis is "the worst ever", but reiterates that staff knew what they were doing when they signed up. Experts say patients are dying prematurely because corridors had become "the new emergency wards", while figures on the day said that A&E wait times are the worst on record.

13 April 2018
Jeremy Hunt apologises after failing to declare purchases of luxury properties. He failed to notify Companies House of his 50 percent interest in Mare Pond Properties Limited and took six months to rectify this. Failing to declare information like this can result in a fine or two years in prison. Labour demanded a parliamentary investigation into the case.

3 June 2018
Jeremy Hunt is blasted by charities for waiting up to four months to tell the public about a breast cancer screening error that could have resulted in 270 deaths. He blames an IT mistake for 450,000 women not receiving vital letters calling them in.

@RuchoSharma