Jeremy Hunt lifts lid on George Osborne haircut that cost UK £10billion

The former Health Secretary reveals all in his new book 'Zero'

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The tale is told in Jeremy Hunt's new book Zero – an account of My Hunt's six-year stint as Health Secretary.

The book seeks to highlight a central shortfall in the governance of the health care system – namely that MPs know the NHS doesn't function properly but do nothing to fix it.

Mr Hunt went to see the Chancellor during the 2015 election run in.

Labour, under Ed Miliband were threatening to "weaponise" the NHS against the Conservatives, so Mr Hunt, as Health Secretary, sought to steal a march on the opposition by securing additional funding to finance a five-year plan for the service.

George Osborne arrives for a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of former Cabinet Secretary Lord Heywood at Westminster Abbey in London.
George Osborne arrives for a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of former Cabinet Secretary Lord Heywood at Westminster Abbey in London.
Former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

In what Mr Hunt describes as "a meeting I will never forget", the Health Secretary was shown into the Chancellor's office in No.11 as Mr Osborne was getting a haircut.

Mr Hunt wrote: "My pitch to George, as the scissors snipped away, was political. Labour had not signed up to Simon Stevens’s £8bn request. If we signed up to it we could kill Ed Miliband’s attack and turn weakness into a strength."

The Chancellor liked Mr Hunt's idea and it was announced 48 hours later.

But Mr Osborne had evidently forgotten that the health service had already got £2bn of the £8bn in his last Autumn budget, so instead it got £10bn.

In spite of a lengthy list of health service horror stories, Mr Hunt maintains that the NHS is "the most accessible system in the world".

Mr Hunt's book may be called “Zero”, but it's not centred on the elimination of Covid but an assessment of how to curb unavoidable harms inflicted on patients.

He says more openness in the service, including encouraging clinicians to speak honestly about things that go wrong during a procedure, would go a long way to mitigating this.

Mr Hunt also wants more continuity in care, including more home delivery, as well as greater focus on prevention.

Despite failing to solve the problems he highlights, Mr Hunt is calling for a "1948 moment" – the year the NHS was founded.