Across all leadership approaches, Jeremy Hunt is not fit to practise



Let’s face it. Nobody looks great when doorstepped by LBC, when you then have to make sure you’re wearing your best cycle helmet in #wereinthistogether leafy Notting Hill to go to work – with a LBC reporting with you in the street.

But the leadership style of Jeremy Hunt is particularly ineffective.

Broadly speaking, as Peter Drucker puts it, “leadership is doing things right.” On the other hand, he has somehow managed to galvanise a near 100% turnout of tens of thousands of Doctors in a strike ballot. Only in North Korea would you get response rates as fantastic as this.

If Jeremy Hunt were to be paid by results, he would be bankrupt.

Hunt wishes to be seen as an international leader in patient safety, and yet he has not uttered a useful word in the legal loophole which seems to have brought Dr Chris Day to the edge of a legal cliff regarding whistleblowing. On that note, he could’ve joined forces with the General Medical Council to produce a robust response which the medical profession might have had confidence in following the Hooper Review – but he chose not.

Patient safety is of course the drum which he beats.

There’s not a single day which goes by where he does not reminisce about Mid Staffs. And yet he is curiously silent on patient safety disasters as they currently happen in live time – such as the avoidable death of Connor Sparrowhawk. He is curiously quiet on dysfunctional leadership and culture, even when the whole world is aware: such as Southern Health Foundation Trust or Liverpool Community Hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt hasn’t said a sausage about the colossal debt which is clogging up the budget sheets of NHS Trusts through PFI. He has not said anything about the misuse of money in the NHS at local commissioning level, such as the famous Cambridgeshire procurement fiasco. For his steer on the colossal deficits in the NHS, and the catastrophic levels of funding in social care, Hunt has shown absolutely no clear leadership. He is not therefore a crisis leader.

Jeremy Hunt has not just managed to alienate the workforce at a minor level. Much of the workforce, though hardworking, committed and dedicated, are finding it exasperating to maintain any sort of dialogue with him. And the topics are wide-ranging – whether it’s the nursing ‘bursary or bust’ or junior doctor contractual concerns about safeguards and gender equality. This is not the performance of an authentic leader.

Jeremy Hunt has not set out a clear vision about what he wants to do with the NHS. He is determined to shoo-horn a 7 day NHS, but thus far has not said with any clarity where the funding for this will come from. The current Government’s financial commitments are no rise in VAT or income tax, and no breaking of their fiscal rule of maintaining a surplus. This would mean that they are unwilling to invest money in public services, while being perfectly happy to fund a cut in capital gains tax or corporate gains tax. With this lack of vision, whatever his actual charisma, he is unable to be a charismatic leader. However, if he ever was once, he has got to the stage where his followers want to disinherit him.

It is incredible that the clinical workforce, and indeed the managers who must be exasperated with imposition of junior doctor contracts, are still going to keep the show on the road. But if his job was to turn around the performance on 4 hour waits in Accident and Emergency, he has failed. He is not a transformative leader.

But is he so proud as never to enter into negotiation with the Junior Doctors Committee of the British Medical Association, as he admires his own image, but seems unwilling or unable to act on feedback? Yes – he might still fulfil the usual requirements of a narcissistic leader.

On the main domains of leadership, apart from narcissistic leader, Hunt is a failure, but where you go from here is up to you. If you’re into zero fault, bring in the costly regulators, and finish him off. But if you believe in organisational learning and development, try to improve him.

The only thing Jeremy Hunt has achieved of late regarding the junior doctors’ strike is getting it onto the 1.26 pm slot of a 1-1.30 pm BBC News programme today. And even then, he probably didn’t even do that. It was probably Nick Seddon.

But one thing is of huge concern to anyone in this field, and that’s not that we’re stuck with him regardless until the date of the EU referendum.

And that is – Prof Chris Ham is clearly not impressed with Jeremy Hunt either.