Matt Hancock MP has been appointed as the new Health and Social Care Secretary following the departure of Jeremy Hunt MP to the Foreign Office. But what does this appointment mean for the future of the NHS? Should industry celebrate the introduction of a man with Mr Hancock’s skills and background, or agitate over the loss of Hunt, a known entity who lately had made one of the most difficult jobs in politics, look easy? Hancock’s views on health issues are relatively unknown, though there are some clues from his past to indicate the leadership he may give the health service.
Highly rated within the Conservative party, the one-time Chief of Staff to George Osborne, Matt Hancock has gained a reputation for being straight-talking, focused and strong.
As a former Bank of England economist, Hancock will undoubtedly be switched on when it comes to financial competence and value for money. Indeed he has publicly expressed the importance of maintaining financial efficiency in the public sector, and has lauded the merits of payment by results schemes, amongst others. Though unlikely to threaten his predecessor’s shrewd approach to NHS spending, the 70th birthday funding windfall awarded only a few weeks ago will need someone of Mr Hancock’s skill to decide how best to apportion such a large amount of additional cash.
Throughout his ministerial career Hancock has demonstrated a penchant for technology and digital innovation. During his (admittedly short) time as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, he infamously became the first MP to launch his own app as a novel method to combine digital connectivity with accountability of MPs to their local constituents. Despite this slightly quirky accolade, Hancock’s proven desire to incorporate new technologies into the political domain should be positively reflected in his NHS strategy. This could mean good news for the long-term future of NHS Digital, the potential of technology supported self-care and the advancement of genomics led precision medicine. Hancock has also publicly articulated his excitement at the prospect of Artificial Intelligence usage in healthcare – were this to be a priority for his agenda it would be considered a real step forward as well as a boost to a flourishing AI industry.
During his time as Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt was keen to establish a strong relationship between healthcare and technological innovation. This foundation will likely be built upon by his successor and provides opportunities for companies operating in this space to extend their external communications and be optimistic about their impact.
Of course, we can only speculate as to what exact policies Mr Hancock will seek to implement or, indeed, shelve. However, he has showed himself to be forward-thinking and financially astute – should these qualities continue to be displayed during his tenure as Health Secretary this surely bodes well for the long-term future of the NHS.