Jeremy Hunt, the former Conservative culture secretary, will replace fellow tory Andrew Lansley as health secretary following a reshuffle of the cabinet on 4 September.
The move has been welcomed by The British Medical Association and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. “The appointment of a new health secretary provides a fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS,” saod the BMA in a statement.
However, Hunt’s open support for homeopathy and voting record on abortion have prompted concerns among others about his appointment.
In 2008, Hunt voted in favour of adding a new paragraph to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to change the time limit for the legal termination of pregnancy from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.
In 2007, he signed an early day motion welcoming the “positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals”. The motion also says that complementary medicine “has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients” and calls on the government to support these “valuable national assets”.
This year, Hunt has been under pressure in the Leveson inquiry into the phone hacking scandal over links with the News Corporation. His special adviser, Adam Smith, was forced to resign after the inquiry revealed he had close links to NewsCorp. However, Smith insisted that he had acted without Hunt’s authority.
Speaking outside No 10 on 4 September, Hunt told BBC news he is “incredibly honoured” to replace Lansley. “It is a huge task and the biggest privilege of my life,” he said.
The ministerial reshuffle also reveals that Conservative minister Caroline Spelman has been demoted from her post as secretary of state for food, environment and rural affairs. She will be replaced by Owen Paterson, also a Conservative and former Northern Ireland secretary.
As Research Fortnight Today went to press, there was no news about science and universities minister David Willetts, who looked likely to keep his post. Vince Cable will also stay on as business secretary.