Lord Hunt of Kings Heath is back at the Department of Health and will be taking ministerial responsibility again for NHS information technology after a gap of nearly four years.
He replaces Lord Warner who retired last month saying that he wished to spend less time with his ministerial red despatch boxes.
Lord Hunt will not inherit exactly the same portfolio. The Financial Times reports today that Lord Warner’s key role in charge of NHS system reform will go to health minister, Andy Burnham.
Responsibility for the National Programme for IT comes back to Lord Hunt, however, who will also be in charge of NHS workforce policy and some quality issues.
Lord Hunt left the department in March 2003 when he resigned from the government over the Iraq War, saying that he could not endorse pre-emptive action without broad international support, or the clear support of the British people.
His departure in 2003 led to an angry-sounding deputy prime minister, John Prescott, claiming on the Today programme not to be aware of who Lord Hunt was, though later in the interview he apologised for his ignorance. The large numbers of people in the NHS who know Philip Hunt well could have told the deputy PM that the rebellious peer was unlikely to be off the scene for long,
Lord Hunt re-emerged later that year as chair of the National Patient Safety Agency and was rehabilitated in the government after the 2005 general election when he became the Department for Work and Pensions’ minister in the Lords.
His career has been devoted healthcare, however. He was the first chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and previously director of the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts (NAHAT) from its formation in 1990. Before that he was director of its predecessor organisation, the National Association of Health Authorities (NAHA) from 1984 to 1990.