Hunt says NHS budget not guaranteed

 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it’s “not possible to make a prediction” on whether the NHS budget will remain protected.

In his first interview in his new role, Hunt said that whether Lansley’s promise to ‘ring-fence’ the NHS budget could be honoured would depend on “the eurozone”.

Hunt also said the Government was trying to decide whether there was “any way at all” of following the Dilnot recommendations on social care reform, including cheaper variations on it.

Speaking to The Spectator, a strongly Conservative journal, he said his aim as Health Secretary was to “safeguard Andrew Lansley’s legacy”.

The shift in leadership at the DH was due to a need for it to communicate how the reforms will “make a difference to patients”, he said – confirming speculation that Hunt’s more ‘personal’ presentation style was a key factor.

While he said his “instinct” was to protect the NHS budget, Hunt insisted that it could no longer be a commitment due to economic “uncertainty”.

Asked whether the Dilnot proposals might be realised from the NHS budget (as the Treasury is said to favour), he said that would be “extremely difficult”. However, he said, “other versions” of the Dilnot plan with a lower cost would be considered.

In clinical terms, Hunt stated his priorities to be: care for the elderly and those with long-term conditions, dementia care and achieving “the best cancer, heart and stroke survival rates in Europe”.

Finally, he expressed the aspiration of delivering a “measurably better” NHS that patients would recognise as such.