JEREMY Hunt has been chosen by fellow MPs to head up the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee.
The committee examines the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department of Health and Social Care and its associated bodies.
Mr Hunt said: “Since I wrote my last column for the Herald I am delighted to have been elected to chair the Health Select Committee.
“This is a position that used to be appointed by government whips but after reform introduced by David Cameron in 2010 is now elected.
“The whips allocate the chairs to different parties in proportion to their seats in the House of Commons, which meant the Health Committee would go to the Conservatives. But after that it is up to all MPs to decide who they want in an open contest.
“It was a new experience for me having to canvass for support among Labour and Liberal Democrat – as well as Conservative – MPs.
“In the end I got 433 votes in favour, 79 per cent of all MPs. For a fleeting second I allowed myself to reflect on what would have happened if I had got a similar proportion of votes in another election held last summer…but not too long because this is actually one of the most interesting jobs in parliament.
“After Brexit – where a decisive corner has now been turned – the pressure on our NHS and social care system is the single biggest issue facing the country.
“The role of the select committee is constitutionally quite different to the government.
“Our job is not just to hold the government to account for its promises, but also to shine a spotlight on areas that need more attention.
“Top of my list in that respect is mental health and social care. I have had numerous constituency surgeries with people who find it still takes too long to get a mental health appointment.
“As health secretary I started a massive expansion in mental health provision so I will be wanting to find out progress in hiring new psychiatrists, mental health nurses and people working in young people’s mental health.
“Social care is also vital because unless we get more money to councils to allow them to look after older people better in their homes, those same vulnerable people will end up in hospital A&E departments – and the NHS will be condemned to repeating the endless cycle of winter crises.
“That would simply not be fair on NHS staff who give their all to keep patients safe.
“Finally I will be keeping a close eye on measures to reduce the high level of preventable harm and death – not just the NHS but in healthcare systems across the world. This has sadly come back to the fore with the maternity safety scandals at Shrewsbury and Telford and East Kent.”