New Health Secretary’s appointment sparks controversy

 The appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary has provoked a storm of controversy regarding his views on healthcare and the NHS.

Critics have noted his co-authorship of a 2005 book calling the NHS “no longer relevant” to the health needs of a modern society.

More recently, it was reported that he opposed the inclusion of a tribute to the NHS in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Hunt’s belief in the importance of homeopathic medicines has also been criticised as showing a poor understanding of scientific evidence.

Direct Democracy (2005) was co-authored by 23 Conservative Party members, including Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and MEP Daniel Hannon (who later called the NHS “a 60-year mistake”).

A chapter on health stated that the existing NHS structure was “no longer relevant” and that its problem was not “one of resources” but one of being a state-run and centrally organised healthcare provider.

“We should fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase health care from the provider of their choice,” the book argued. “Those without means should have their contributions supplemented or paid for by the state.”

Hunt’s opposition to the NHS tribute in the Olympic Games opening ceremony was reported in July. According to the Times Hunt queried whether the tribute was “necessary”, but the Prime Minister overrode his objection.

Medical scientists have suggested that Hunt’s endorsement of homeopathy – he signed a Commons early day motion supporting it in 2007 – betrays a poor grasp of evidence-based medicine.

Professor Sir John Krebs, former head of the Food Standards Agency, said: “It would be a real blow for those who want medicine to be science-based if the Secretary of State were to promote homeopathy because of his personal beliefs.”