Coffee House

Jeremy Hunt’s letter a day to keep NHS myths away

19 July 2013

Attending the funeral of Margaret Thatcher in April, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was much impressed by the bit in the sermon by the Bishop of London about how Mrs Thatcher had replied personally to so many letters.

He went back to his department, and asked it to give him each day one letter from a member of the public which recounted particularly shocking problems in the Health Service. He now uses these letters to dive into the problems that patients experience. It is a good idea, but how alarming that it is a novel one. The Department of Health receives more letters than any other part of government except 10 Downing Street. Is it really the case that up till now, officials have never troubled the Secretary of State with the woes of the public?


For more than 60 years, we have been bullied into thinking that the NHS works for us. At last, because so many — especially the old — have cruelly experienced the opposite, we want to make our feelings known. Mr Hunt’s one letter a day is a tiny drop in the ocean of misery which must eventually sweep the current system away.

GoveThis is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator’s Notes in this week’s magazine. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.

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  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Yes it is a good idea. Random. Anyway won’t this lobbying bill help people better approach the health secretary ie where others can’t and don’t help?

  • george

    The unresponsiveness to constituents of British MPs is indeed a scandal. It is certainly nothing like the responsiveness/attentiveness/awareness of American Representatives. Why is that? One major reason why American Representatives (the correct term for the colloquial ‘Congressmen’) respond is that they are elected every two years (as against the Senators’ six years, on a rotating schedule).

    The Congressmen/women respond and listen because they will be up for election soon. Whereas British MPs really want the electorate to get lost, as soon as they are elected.

    There is a lesson in democracy in that.

    • mrsjosephinehydehartley

      Actually i don’t think American representatives hold regular constituency surgeries as we can do here in the UK.

      Indeed, those brave enough to make themselves available to the general public in the USA are liable to get shot I understand – remember Gabby Giffords a year or two ago? -but that’s the gun laws they use over there.

      • george

        You’ve got to be kidding.

  • Thucy Dides

    Jeremy Hunt is playing the long game with the NHS, as are the whole Tory party, as I point out in my blog. But these changes are certainly on the way.

  • Tootrue
  • John Steed

    It’s good that he’s doing this – it should be mandatory. Typically Ministers just sign off Civil Service replies without examining the underlying complaints. And the civil servants presumably rely for their information on health service managers, who of course will minimise any problems.

    Obviously there isn’t time for Ministers to delve into the vast majority of complaints, but Hunt’s approach is a lot better than waving everything through.

  • Mazzzz
  • Michael Kingscott

    I’d write one about how come a woman can get a cosmetic boob job on the NHS and then want breast reduction surgery on the NHS whilst people in genuine pain due to femoral acetabular impingement (hip pain) are denied a simple arthroscopy operation on the NHS due to funding?

    • Shazza

      Yup. And you can get your tattoos removed as well. And your virginity restored in case your future husband resorts to ‘honour’ violence. And if you come from anywhere in the 3rd world via A&E you can have whatever op or treatment you need.

    • Amanda Griss

      Hi Michael. I’ve been off sick from my NHS job for too long due to the pain of FAI with HMS/EDS 3. I’ve recently lost my job. I’ve had no appropriate treatment off the NHS in 17 months. I was refused physio at the hospital I was an employee. That sucks. My PCT now CCG don’t fund hip arthroscopy either. Surely it would be cheaper for hip arthroscopy to be funded by all CCGs and get young people back to work rather than compel them to a life of disability? That costs tax payers money when they have lost their job but it doesn’t cost the CCG money. Where’s the sense in that?

      • Confabulator

        Hip arthroscopy doesn’t fix early arthritis of the hip which is why PCTs won’t pay for it. It doesn’t get people back to work either. Sorry

  • stanedeid

    Hunt or Burnham,it makes no difference.Westminster unionists continue to ruin it for the rest of us.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Actually, I think it does make a difference. Hunt’s approach has been far more open and aspirational than Johnson’s or Burnham’s who have given every indication of trying to keep the lid on things for party political advantage.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Are we to take it now that Parliament has gone into recess that Burnham has got away with it?

    • HookesLaw

      As a Tory I hope Burnham stays where he is – a festering sore (appropriately) in the side of Labour.

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