Andrew Lansley has lost his job as health secretary in a government reshuffle and will become the leader of the House of Commons.
Lansley, who has led the Department of Health since 2010 and has overseen the controversial ‘Liberating the NHS’ reforms, will be replaced by Jeremy Hunt.
Hunt has also come under scrutiny in recent months in his role as secretary of state for culture, olympics, media and sport, because of the role played by one of his special advisors in News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.
Lansley’s departure this morning triggered a series of changes at the DH, which will see an almost complete turn-over of its ministerial team.
Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat who was supposed to oversee a revamp of social care, followed Lansley out of Richmond House, and will be replaced by Norman Lamb.
And late in the day, it emerged that Simon Burns, the health minister with responsibility for NHS IT, will become transport secretary, while Anne Milton will also exit the department.
Lansley arrived at the Department of Health after a number of years as shadow health secretary, promising that there would be no ‘top down’ reorganisation of the NHS.
Yet within months, he had unveiled the ‘Liberating the NHS’ white paper, which pledged to sweep away much of the health service’s existing commissioning structure and to introduce more competition to providers.
The subsequent Health and Social Care Bill had a difficult passage through Parliament, but was approved in March after the government made substantial changes to the legislation.
A number of professional bodies representing doctors, nurses and other NHS workers including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing opposed the bill and welcomed Lansley’s departure this morning.
Chair of the BMA Council, Dr Mark Porter, said the appointment of a new Health Secretary provides a "fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS."
However, in a tweet in response to this morning’s reshuffle news, the deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Kailash Chand, said: "Very likely replacement is Jermy Hunt.
"I fear [a] more toxic right winger [who is likely] to follow [the] privatisation agenda. The disaster in NHS carries on."
Despite the dismay caused by his wider healthcare reforms, Lansley has been a firm supporter of the need to improve NHS IT and information systems, and backed both the EHI CCIO Campaign and the subsequent EHI CCIO Leaders Network.
Speaking this morning, Hunt said his new job was "the biggest privilege of my life." From Downing Street he said: "I’m incredibly honoured and looking forward to getting on with the job."
Lamb has experience of health – he was the Lib Dem’s health spokesman for a number of years, and was expected to get the social care job when the coalition came to power in 2010. His appointment was apparently blocked by Lansley.
Burns and Milton will be replaced by Daniel Poulter and Anna Soubry. At the end of the reshuffle, only Lord Howe, the health minister in the Lords, remained of the health team that was in place at the start of it.
Read more about Andrew Lansley’s time as health secretary in Insight.