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Former health secretary elected as chair of health and social care select committee

The new chair of the House of Commons health and social care select committee was elected by fellow MPs.

Jeremy Hunt smiling

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Jeremy Hunt, former health and social care secretary, has been described as a “highly-qualified choice” by a spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association spokesperson for his new appointment as chair of the House of Commons health and social care select committee

Jeremy Hunt, former health and social care secretary, has been elected as chair of the House of Commons health and social care select committee.

Hunt, who was health and social care secretary from 2010 to 2018, will take over from Sarah Wollaston, former Liberal Democrat MP for Totnes, Devon, who served as chair of the committee between 2014 and 2019, but lost her seat in the 2019 general election.

Hunt won the final run-off vote to chair the committee by 317 votes against Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot, Devon.

During his tenure as health and social care secretary, Hunt presided over the government’s decision to cut £320m from the community pharmacy budget in England, which were announced in 2016.

The cuts resulted in a legal battle between the government and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

However, Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the pharmacy profession “shouldn’t prejudge [Hunt]” in his new role and instead “engage with him and the select committee”.

“When he was secretary of state for health, he was delivering the priorities of the Cabinet and the Treasury,” she said. “He was doing the job that his bosses had decided he would do — it was a collective decision.”

Gidley added that Hunt was also “very receptive” to plans for what became patient summary care records (SCR), adding that England had the SCR before Wales “and Scotland still haven’t got them”.

“He also presided over developing new roles for pharmacists,” she continued. “So, we shouldn’t concentrate on the one bit that was painful for all.

“The role of a select committee chair is to try to come to a cross-party consensus about how things should be done better.”

A spokesperson for the NPA said: “The health and social care select committee plays a vital part in scrutinising government policy.

“Jeremy Hunt’s long experience as health secretary makes him a highly qualified choice as committee chair and we look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Also commenting on the appointment, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said Hunt’s appointment was “welcome”.

“Jeremy has recognised that the NHS faces a period of significant pressure and his experience will play an invaluable role in scrutinising how the government tackles these challenges,” he said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207645

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