Episode 5

Shooting The Breeze With Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP

In this week’s Oven Ready HR episode, I grab a few minutes with one of the UKs most senior political figures, a former Culture Secretary, Health Secretary, and Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, unsuccessfully challenged, Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Today, Hunt is the chairman of the powerful House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, where he is at times challenged and disagrees with the government’s response to the COVID pandemic.

He’s also publicly disagreed with the proposed 1% pay increase for NHS staff, describing this as a miscalculation, as well as talking about COVID, we also discuss flexible working, toxic work cultures and the challenges faced by the NHS in attracting and retaining talent.

An exclusive chat with one of the UK’s most influential political figures.

About my guest

In this week’s Oven Ready HR episode, I grab a few minutes with one of the UKs most senior political figures, a former Culture Secretary, Health Secretary, and Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, unsuccessfully challenged, Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Today, Hunt is the chairman of the powerful House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, where he is at times challenged and disagrees with the government’s response to the COVID pandemic.

Transcript

Chris Taylor: In this week’s Oven Ready HR episode, I grab a few minutes with one of the UKs most senior political figures, a former Culture Secretary, Health Secretary, and Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, unsuccessfully challenged, Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Today, Hunt is the chairman of the powerful House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, where he is at times challenged and disagrees with the government’s response to the COVID pandemic.

He’s also publicly disagreed with the proposed 1% pay increase for NHS staff, describing this as a miscalculation, as well as talking about COVID, we also discuss flexible working, toxic work cultures and the challenges faced by the NHS in attracting and retaining talent.

UK businesses have had quite a few tough years, firstly, with the protracted Brexit negotiations, and secondly, with the effects of the pandemic you’re a former successful business owner. How confident are you that UK businesses can build back better?

Jeremy Hunt: Well, I think it’s going to be very challenging because you’ve got two things happening at the same time.

You basically got the pandemic, which was a body blow to lots of hospitality businesses, whether it’s, you know, restaurants and pubs or wedding businesses or whatever, but you’ve also got technological change that’s happening at the same time where we are all getting much, much more familiar with the online world and with the transition to Zoom and Teams and homeworking, and the pandemic is going to have the effect of accelerating those changes alongside other things that were going to happen anyway, but we’ll be very disruptive, like driverless cars.

And so I think we’ve got to recognise that everyone is going to be transitioning to a new modern, hopefully much greener economic model. and that will be exciting, but also disruptive.

Chris Taylor: Okay. I mean, your constituency contains, you know, many workers who, before the pandemic were regular commuters into London although difficult to predict, do you feel there’s now as you’ve, you’ve sort of said that there’s an unstoppable shift towards this sort of hybrid model of working and that may of course benefit the local economy.

Do you think?

Jeremy Hunt: I think it will ultimately like all these big transformations but. The transition could be painful. Most of the people I speak to in Southwest, Surrey who commute say they would like to go back to a model, not as well as before, but perhaps commuting three days a week and spending perhaps Mondays and Fridays at home.

I think everyone wants the interaction that you get in an office . But also the extra time you get from not commuting which you know, which can be very productive . I think most people are splitting it so that they have more personal time and more time for their work. So I think we’ll, we won’t go back to normal.

Chris Taylor: Right. Okay. Cause I mean, the CIPD recently launched a campaign they’ve called flex from first. So this is asking for a change in the laws so that employees can request flexible working, let’s say from day one of their employment. Is that something that you would support, do you think.

Jeremy Hunt: I think it varies from employer to employer.

I think in you know, very highly competitive areas employers will be forced to offer that where people want it. And there are obviously other businesses like hospitality businesses that can’t offer that they need people to be onsite. I think there are going to be other organisations like the NHS that I find that if they can offer GP’s the chance to do consultations from home two days a week, they might keep more GP’s in the workforce rather than losing them to early retirement or going part-time. So I think it’s going to be in many different shapes and sizes.

Chris Taylor: Talking about the NHS, I mean, media reports sort of highlighting bullying and toxic work cultures often make headline news.

And actually next week I’m releasing an interview with an academic whose work around the, sort of the dark side of workplace behaviors revealed that these cultures are often more likely to be found in the public rather than the private sector and the NHS in particular. Was that an issue that concerned you when you were health secretary?

Jeremy Hunt: I think the NHS is full of the most amazing people. I mean really incredible people. But it’s a high pressure environment and even with all the benefits of the, you know, the, the wonderful motivations that people have, which makes them want to go into medicine to help human beings at their most vulnerable, if you’re in a high pressure environment, like the like an A&E department where people’s lives are at risk, if they don’t get treated quickly, you know, sometimes tempers can fray and that’s why it’s really important that you have a strong culture of respect and you know, we’ve got lots of hospitals where that happens. I’m afraid one or two where it doesn’t and that’s why we have, you know, very transparent inspection by the CQC to, to call out places which have got the wrong culture.

Chris Taylor: Sure. I mean, I think his point that he was making was actually, it’s often in an organisation, which is under extreme pressure and of course the NHS in the last 14 months or so has been under an incredible pressure. Hasn’t it?

Jeremy Hunt: It is. And that’s, that’s the basic point, you know, if there, if, if people are under pressure it’s, it’s very hard and so sometimes, you know, that can be interpreted by one person ‘s bullying by another person they’re just saying, look “get on with it”. But I think then the figures that are published in the NHS staff survey about the level of physical bullying are very shocking, the levels of people and the proportion of people who say that they have felt too unwell to go to work because of the stress and the pressure are also deeply worrying. And I think the root cause of this is that we need more doctors and nurses to do the work that has to be done and we need our systems to make sure that we really are training enough doctors for the future.

Chris Taylor: Yeah. I mean, cause I, I interviewed Matthew Taylor, who I think is the incoming CEO isn’t he of the NHS Confederation a couple of weeks ago.

And I know they’ve written an open letter to the government. You know, warning of the pressures placed on NHS because of the chronic, under staffing and issues of retention that does seem to be a perpetual issue doesn’t it?

Jeremy Hunt: Yes. And I think you know, when I was there, I, when I was Health Secretary, I tried to rectify it.

I opened five new medical schools and increased the number of doctors, nurses, and midwives. We trained by 25%, which is one of the biggest ever single increases, but I always felt we need to be much more strategic and you know, we, we need to recognise that it’s not just pandemics with an ageing population we’re going to need more capacity in our health provision, much more capacity and that means we’ve got to be very strategic and say, look, how many doctors are we going to need in 10 years time in 20 years time, because it takes 7 years to train one. So we need to get cracking.

Chris Taylor: Sure. I mean, I think anecdotally, whether it’s true or not, I’m not sure, but I think there’s been an increase hasn’t there in the amount of applicants though for you know, for NHS positions.

I think since, since the pandemic and the people who’ve actually seen, gosh, this is quite an amazing career opportunity,

Jeremy Hunt: But there are also large numbers who are working in the service who said, we’ll think about taking early retirement as soon as the pandemic over, because it’s been so stressful. And that’s why we’ve got to be really careful.

Sure. I mean, you’re, I think you’re chair of the House of Commons health and social care select committee. I think you’re on record is saying that the 1% pay offer to NHS workers is a miscalculation. Can you expand at all on that?

Well, I just feel that I can see how the decision happened when public sector has been frozen across all other sectors it’s easy to see a 1% rise as being generous, relative to other sectors. But I think the reality is that for nurses on the frontline who just come through the year, they’ve come through it doesn’t feel enough. And so I think. You know, I’m hoping very much, it’s something the government will relook at.

I suspect when they get the recommendations from the independent pay review bodies, they will recommend more than 1% and the government will accept their recommendation.

Okay. Thank you very much. And you’ve, you’ve had you haven’t had the best year. Have you broke, did you break your arm at the beginning of the year and then you had COVID?

Was that right?

I did, but my family is safe and well, and that’s all that matters.

Chris Taylor: And you’re fighting fit

Jeremy Hunt: And I’m fighting fit, but thank you very much Chris. Lovely to chat.

Chris Taylor: Thanks Jeremy Hunt. Thank you.

Share this podcast

Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Recent episodes

Episode 16
Season 2

Go Big Or Go Home! Getting Workers Back To The Office

Guest(s)

Olly Olsen

“Our people team that have kicked into a gear that I never realised we had, and the number of people that we’re trying to hire at the moment is, is extraordinary”
15
Season 2

LinkedIn – Love It or Loathe it?

Guest(s)

Jon Simmonds

“it used to be a glorified Jobs board and we all knew that LinkedIn was where you put your CV up when you were fed up with what you were currently doing. But once you dig down under the surface now, you know, they’ve made a lot of changes to the platform and for my money, it’s actually, it it’s the most genuine social network out there.”
14
Season 2

Oven-Ready HR Reheated! Further Highlights From Season 2

Guest(s)

Francesca Peters, Daniel Dore, Mike Seidle, Sarah Barker, Darren Burns, Merlie Calvert and Dr Paola Carr-Walker

Another slice of Oven-Ready HR interviews from Season 2.
Episode 13
Season 2

Oven-Ready HR Reheated! Highlights from Season 2

Guest(s)

Jeremy Hunt MP, Michael F Schein, Matthew Taylor, Dr Sam Farley, Michael Whitfield and Reeves Wiedeman.

We’re giving listeners the opportunity for an extra slice of interviews from the first six episodes of Season 2 of the Oven-Ready HR Podcast
Episode 12
Season 2

Changing Attitudes To Mental Health At Work

Guest(s)

Dr Paola Carr-Walker

“Everybody is encouraged to think about their physical health and in the same way I think we should all be encouraged to think about our mental health. And yeah, I would say it’s not just a self-indulgent way of going about things. I think it’s very important. “
Episode 11
Season 2

How Deliveroo Inspired Delivery Of Legal Services

Guest(s)

Merlie Calvert

“I think we’ve got far too many, highly talented business owners, business managers, senior employees doing admin and tying themselves in knots versus doing what they’re best capable of doing, which is going out there, creating, innovating, conversing with people, winning hearts and minds”

Be the first to get the latest episode of my podcast