Lost: test results diagnosing Jeremy Hunt with terminal incompetence – John Crace

27 February 2017

Hunt soon chose to follow the data’s example and make himself scarce. Photograph: PA

”Somewhere in the UK there is a warehouse stuffed full of GPs’ referral letters and blood test results diagnosing the health secretary with terminal incompetence. But as it has yet to be found, Jeremy Hunt had to limit his scope to the 700,000 NHS documents that have just turned up after going missing in action for five years in answer to Labour’s urgent question in the Commons.

“Absolutely nothing went missing,” he reassured MPs. All that had happened was that hundreds of thousands of confidential pieces of medical information had accidentally been sent to the wrong place without anyone noticing. But it was no biggy. As far as he knew, no one had died – or if they had, their death certificates had also gone AWOL, so it was much the same thing. And what it really proved was how many unnecessary tests the NHS were conducting each year. Just think of the potential savings. A couple of avoidable deaths had to be a price worth paying for not bothering with 700,000 bits of paperwork.

Hunt was rather less cavalier with his own reputation. “I was made aware of the situation in March last year,” he sobbed. And he had begged and begged his departmental officials to let him tell the country. But they had said to him: “You mustn’t do that, Jeremy, because otherwise every hypochondriac in the country will be ringing up their GP to find out if they’ve got cancer after all and we’ll never get round to finding out just how big a cock-up you’ve made. Not that you have made a cock-up, of course.””

‘Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth wanted to know why the government had chosen to sell off the transfer of patient records to Capita after the Shared Business Service had proved to be such a disaster.

“You’re wrong,” Hunt replied defensively. “We haven’t transferred the SBS contract to Capita. We’ve taken it back in-house.” Really? “Yes.” Really, really? “Well … we have sold off some other patient records transfer to Capita and it is true there are a lot of teething problems with that contract.” But, touch wood, no one had died so there was nothing to see here. Move along.

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