Wednesday 3rd January 2018
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Conservative MP for South West Surrey
When I was first made Health Secretary – five years ago, in September 2012 – I said it was the biggest privilege of my life, and so it has proved. What I did not realise then was that it would also become my biggest passion. Because, as more than a million other people in our country know, working in health is not just a job but a vocation.
Events in recent months have reminded all of us once again of the incredible work of the National Health Service in Britain, particularly the way in which NHS staff dealt first with the global cyberattack and then with the horrendous terror attacks in Manchester and London.
After the Manchester bombing, I met nurses caring for bereaved families with incredible compassion, whilst in London I heard stories of doctors who cycled the length of the city at 2am just because they wanted to help.
This year’s party conference in Manchester provides another opportunity for us to honour their dedication, as we also honour the spirit and humanity of the whole city for the way this community has responded.
Those stories speak to a wider truth: NHS staff do an amazing job, often in the most difficult circumstances. And it is our shared respect for that care, and the institution which provides it, which brings us all together – our great belief in the NHS, what it stands for, and what we believe it can be. The compassion, energy, dynamism, and total dedication of NHS staff, day in, and day out, are truly humbling.
When I look at what the NHS has achieved in recent years, I think that we can feel very proud. Despite the financial crash and ensuing period of constrained budgets, the NHS, today, has some of its highest ever satisfaction ratings, carries out 5,000 more operations a day, has some of the lowest ever MRSA rates, and sees its highest ever survival rates for cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
One of the biggest expansions of mental health provision in Europe is underway right here in the UK, and there has been a dramatic transformation in the prioritisation of patient safety in the wake of Mid-Staffs.
I am proud that this country was the first to say that no one – rich or poor, young or old – should have to worry about affording good health care. Indeed, our example has made that pledge central to how people right across the world define a civilised nation.
Going forward, we must continue to focus not just on equity but also on excellence. We need to continue our work on patient safety, continue the transformation of mental health, continue developing new models of care and continue to put as much energy into prevention as into cure.
That is my mission – to support the NHS to become the safest, highest quality health system in the world. A world-class public service which is not only there for families across our country, but is there with the highest standards in every hospital, GP practice and care setting.
Of course, difficult issues lie ahead. Problems persist, many of them complex. And money is always going to be a pressure. But I am confident that, working together, we can unite the whole NHS to deliver the safest, highest quality health care anywhere in the world. That is why I want to thank all of those who work in the NHS for their hard work to make this vision a reality. Nowhere is that message more important and more deserved than in Manchester.