Innovation in Medicine 2018: health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt discusses NHS future in keynote speech

Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health and social care, delivered the keynote speech at Innovation in Medicine 2018, and addressed the government's recent £20 billion funding announcement and strategies for a modern NHS service.  

Speaking to a packed hall, Hunt began his address by congratulating the RCP ‘on 500 remarkable years’, adding that this was a moment to ‘reflect on the extraordinary contribution to medicine’ that the RCP has made in this time, before moving on to the topic of the Conservative party's funding plan for the NHS.  

Discussing the £20 billion announcement, the health secretary called the government’s funding settlement ‘vital’ for stabilising the NHS over the next 10 years.

‘Recently it has been a feast or famine model of funding for the NHS,’ he said. ‘And it needs stability in funding, and the space this allows, to implement positive reforms.’ 

Recently it has been a feast or famine model of funding for the NHS. And it needs stability in funding, and the space this allows, to implement positive reforms.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care

Outlining his vision for the NHS, Jeremy Hunt explained that the budget settlement, along with the government’s 10-year plan, would give the NHS that space to enable broad reforms. He identified waiting times as a simple, significant area that needed reform, which had started to ‘creep’ up, and called it a defining factor of a modern health service.

Hunt then told delegates that he and the government were committed to the highest standards and making sure people don’t wait too long for necessary treatment.

Explaining other factors, the health secretary told attendees that the health sector was on the ‘cusp of a tech revolution, with AI, digital medicine, robotics … all things that will have a massive impact [on the health sector]’. He said the burning question was to ask whether we can use these developments across all aspects of the NHS, and whether we could be the country to fully tap the potential of digital medicine.

Hunt then reiterated: ‘Let’s not make the mistake of solving yesterday’s problems tomorrow.’

[We] should listen to people on the frontline, listen to their daily experience of waste and productivity, and use that knowledge to transform the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care

The final reform that Hunt stressed during the speech was the issue of productivity and efficiency.

‘I’m not saying that anyone in the NHS should work harder or longer,’ he stated, ‘rather that we should listen to people on the frontline, listen to their daily experience of waste and productivity, and use that knowledge to transform the NHS.’

Hunt went on to outline a vision for modernising NHS IT systems, so that doctors and nurses can free up time to do their jobs, and developing ‘locally driven IT systems’ with central specifications to create real local ownership.

‘These, if done properly,’ he concluded, ‘will be enough to deliver the world-class health service.’

Finishing his speech Hunt said: 'I recognise that NHS staff work incredibly hard and with the funding strategy we want to give hope to people in the NHS, and show that there is a plan in place for the service to develop and be a world-class service for the next 70 years.'