Unite says new Health Secretary ‘has flunked it at the first hurdle’, with ‘vacuous’ conference speech. (Pictured: “Block the Bill’ protest, Westminster, October 2011. ©Jess Hurd, ReportDigital)

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Unions have accused the recently-appointed Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of being ‘out of his depth’, following a speech to Conservative Party faithful in which he described NHS reforms imposed by the Coalition as ‘brave’.

(Pictured: “Block the Bill’ protest, Westminster, October 2011. ©Jess Hurd, ReportDigital)

Critics say his first major speech since last month’s reshuffle failed to address the crisis in the NHS created by his ‘disastrous’ predecessor, Andrew Lansley.

Unite’s head of health, Rachael Maskell said: “It was evident that Jeremy Hunt has either not got a grip of the scale of the crisis facing the NHS or he is in complete denial – or both.

“The NHS deserves better than this short, vacuous, policy light speech.

“There was no reference to the scale of the cuts currently taking place in England, or to the damage that the so-called £20bn efficiency savings are doing to the NHS that Jeremy Hunt professes to care for.

“There was no indication how he would improve the mortality rates for the main ‘killer diseases’ – cancers, strokes and heart disease.

“If Tory-controlled local councils, which take over the public health budgets in April next year, redirect those budgets away from existing  public health services, how is Jeremy Hunt going to improve survival rates for the major ‘killer’ diseases?

“It is not good for the country; for the NHS and the millions of patients it serves every week that we have a new health secretary so out of his depth, when the waiting lists are rising and thousands of frontline health professionals are losing their jobs.

“When Jeremy Hunt came into office last month he had a fantastic opportunity to make a name for himself as the health secretary that saved the NHS – he has flunked it at the first hurdle.”


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