'New health secretary has never worked in healthcare – so he must listen to nurses'

RCN hopes health and social care secretary Matt Hancock will use insights offered by nursing workforce

Newly appointed health and social care secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Alamy

The RCN extended a cautious welcome to new health and social care secretary in England Matt Hancock, with general secretary Janet Davies describing him as ‘a new kid on the block’.

The college hopes Mr Hancock, the former culture secretary, will use the perspective and knowledge offered by the nursing workforce, she told Nursing Standard at the awards ceremony for last night’s Patient Safety Awards in Manchester.

Ms Davies said: ‘We don’t know him, of course. The big thing about any politician is that they haven’t worked in healthcare.’

'We can offer solutions  – I hope he listens'

She added: ‘We’ve got 400,000 nurses in our membership and I hope he will take the time to listen to them, see what the issues are, and actually look at some of the solutions that maybe we can provide to help him.’

The departure of Jeremy Hunt as health and social care secretary prompted applause at the event, run by the Health Service Journal.

Ms Davies said the college’s relationship with Mr Hunt had been challenging. ‘I don’t think we’ve seen eye to eye, but we’ve made it work,’ she said.

Profile of new health secretary Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock entered parliament in 2010, having worked as an economist at the Bank of England and chief of staff for George Osborne when Mr Osborne was shadow chancellor of the exchequer.

The father of three is MP for West Suffolk and has had several ministerial roles.

In 2015 he was appointed paymaster general, spearheading then prime minister David Cameron’s 'earn or learn' taskforce. The scheme required unemployed people aged 18 to 21 to undergo training or risk losing benefits.

Mr Hancock received his first cabinet post at the start of this year, when he was appointed secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

On his appointment as health and social care secretary, Mr Hancock tweeted: ‘Really looking forward to joining @DHSCgovuk at such an important time for our great NHS. I can’t wait to get started.’

Mr Hancock will be responsible for overseeing the embedding of the NHS pay deal in England and the extra funding for the health service announced this year.

By Matthew Mckew

Jeremy Hunt served as health secretary for six years. Picture: Alamy 

Crucial time for NHS

British Medical Association council chair Chaand Nagpaul congratulated Mr Hancock on his appointment and said the doctors’ union looked forward to working with him.

‘While there is a new secretary of state, the challenges the health service faces remain the same.

Mr Hunt's legacy won praise from NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson. He said Mr Hunt leaves a ‘better settlement for health than many had expected and a real focus on patient safety’.

Tangled mess

‘He inherited a tangled mess of a reorganisation from his predecessor and he had to live with a succession of austere funding settlements that were never going to meet rising demand,’ Mr Dickson said.

‘Given so little to play with, Mr Hunt deserves credit for helping to keep the show on the road, but the health service, better in many ways, has also slipped back when it comes to meeting many of its core standards.

‘His successor has one overwhelming challenge – how to help the NHS and the social care system to become sustainable in the face of rising demand and a severe workforce crisis.’

Society for Acute Medicine president Nick Scriven said: ‘The jury will be out on the new health secretary to see if he is able to put his financial skills to good use and ensure adequate funding and appropriate use of resources for the NHS in the coming months and years.’

Further information

Find out more about the Patient Safety Congress

In other news

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.