Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had emerged unscathed from a public petition of 220,000 people calling for his removal from this critical Cabinet position.
Unite, the country’s largest union, had encouraged members of parliament from all political parties to back a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Health Secretary.
Jeremy Hunt, the current Conservative secretary of health, has been central in the announcement of the highly publicised seven-day NHS plan, which has received the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron.
MPs this week debated the issue in Parliament, while Hunt also appeared before a Select Committee to defend his record as Health Secretary.
But The Guardian newspaper reported that Hunt gave a very confident performance before the committee, while the motion in parliament was defeated.
Despite this development, the Unite union continues to strongly criticise the performance of Hunt.
Indeed, Barry Brown MP, who strongly backed the Unite initiative, suggested that Hunt is in fact “one of the worst health secretaries since the NHS was formed in 1948”.
Brown also suggested that plans related to seven-day NHS services were fundamentally flawed, and that Hunt had in fact failed to understand the existing NHS culture.
The MP stated that he considers Hunt to be “the Health Secretary who has been more critical of health service staff since the creation of the NHS than any of his predecessors, yet now he pushes for seven-day services from staff whose value and commitment he clearly questions at nearly every opportunity.”
Brown also suggested that Hunt was guilty of significant hypocrisy with regard to his stance on NHS pay.
“Hunt’s relentless push for seven-day services – which are already there – is set against the background of not only being the richest member of David Cameron’s cabinet, but the one who denies a one per cent pay increase to NHS staff by rejecting the recommendations from the respected independent pay review body,” Brown opined.
While the Unite union has been extremely negative about the performance of the Conservative Health Secretary, it has taken a much more positive view over the Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
In the opinion of Unite, Corbyn has taken a principled position on the NHS, and his attitude to politics has inspired both young and old folk alike.
However, it should be said in mitigation that the Unite support for Corbyn, and indeed arguably its opposition to Hunt, may not be considered entirely surprising.
Corbyn is almost ubiquitously referred to as a left-wing socialist, drawn from the traditional stock of the Labour party, which always enjoyed strong links with trade unions.
Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that the elevation of Corbyn to the position of Labour leader can help stimulate a valuable debate on the future of the health service.