Demands for Hunt to step up to the plate over big health issues

New Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt must shake off his 'novice' image by making a considered series of announcements on big issues during the coming months, leading health PR professionals have suggested.

Health Secretary: Hunt has been branded as being 'out of his depth'
Health Secretary: Hunt has been branded as being 'out of his depth'

Sources said Hunt, who attracted criticism for his personal views on abortion last week, has been branded 'out of his depth' by sections of the media and local government.

Andrew Hobson, associate director at Open Road, said: 'Hunt has said so little that when he does say something it's treated as significant. Saturday's interview on abortion was an example of that.'

Hobson added the 'comms vacuum' Hunt had created meant his views on homeopathy and his personal intervention to encourage the takeover of NHS hospitals in his Surrey constituency by a private firm, Virgin Care, have also hit headlines.

Hunt's first interview as Health Secretary was given last week to the Spectator, in which he was described as 'panicking a little' over the question of whether the NHS budget should be ringfenced.

He also promised to make NHS managers more accountable for their treatment, at the Tory party conference.

Hobson added: 'Now finding a safe issue is going to be difficult for Hunt. He has a big in-tray of tricky issues such as the Francis Review and South London PFI deal.'

Mike Birtwistle, MD of MHP Mandate, said: 'I would expect a regular flow of announcements from Hunt this autumn. He needs to introduce himself to the health community and the NHS.' Birtwistle added that Hunt, viewed by many PR professionals as a good communicator, had 'clearly been brought in to try to keep the NHS quiet'.

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