Time for major surgery: Jeremy Hunt slams 'rogue' NHS health system and calls for overhaul

15 May 2022, 23:57 | Updated: 14 October 2022, 13:49

Jeremy Hunt has criticised the health system he led.
Jeremy Hunt has criticised the health system he led. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Jeremy Hunt has criticised the "rogue system" he sat at the top of when he was Health Secretary, adding that he was "shocked to his core" by failures in care.

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Mr Hunt - who is the current chair of the Health and Social Care Committee - said a fear of transparency and honesty in the NHS when it comes to avoidable deaths and mistakes is a "major structural problem" that must be addressed.

"Corrosive consequences of such thinking" were cover-ups that the Department of Health and NHS "were complicit" in, he said.

In an excerpt from his book - Zero: Eliminating Unnecessary Deaths in a Post-Pandemic NHS - which was published in the Times, Mr Hunt explained: "Too often managers who had failed were recycled to jobs in a different part of the country, where they continued to make the same mistakes. And because of the secrecy, the wheels of change ground slowly.

"It was not about rogue staff or a rogue hospital. It was about a rogue system. A rogue system that I, as health secretary, sat at the top of."

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'We're already burning people out before they're even starting in the NHS.'

Mr Hunt revealed that civil servants in the department tried to block him from reading patients' letters of complaint, telling him he could not send apologies to harmed families.

Before he changed the NHS stance there were "meetings held behind my back to work out if they could dissuade me from such a thoroughly dangerous idea", he added.

Mr Hunt went on to say that he was also "shocked to his core" by failures in care, including avoidable deaths.

The MP for South West Surrey drew attention to the "exhausted" doctors and nurses within the NHS, adding that, as an institution, it "is crying out for renewal".

However, he warned that when it comes to changes "the foundation of any reforms must be to improve the quality as well as the quantity of care delivered".

Mr Hunt was Health Secretary between 2012 and 2018 but now refuses to rule himself out of a future Tory leadership contest.

He was the strongest opponent against Boris Johnson for the top job in the party in 2019, and has been touted as a possible candidate should there be another contest.