Andrew Lansley

ANdrew Lansley became the highest-profile victim of the Government reshuffle as he was removed from his long-cherished post as Health Secretary after pushing through his controversial NHS reform programme.

Mr Lansley’s decision to expend huge amounts of political capital on a massive reorganisation of the NHS – having previously pledged that there would be no more top-down changes – ultimately cost him his job yesterday as the Prime Minister decided a fresh face was needed to steady the ship at the Department for Health.

The Tory MP remains at the Cabinet table, however, having been handed a new role as Leader of the House of Commons following the departure of the long-serving Sir George Young.

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Mr Lansley had become a highly controversial figure within the health service, and his departure was welcomed by medical unions who said incoming Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – perhaps the day’s biggest winner, following his promotion from the Department for Culture – now had the chance to roll back the most divisive reforms.

Indeed, health workers’ union Unite said the departure of the “disastrous” Mr Lansley should mean a “complete rethink” on the future of the health service.

The union’s head of health, Rachael Maskell, said: “The NHS has been pushed to the brink of destruction by Andrew Lansley – a Minister who simply would not listen either to the patients or the professionals.

“Andrew Lansley must rank as one of the worst Health Secretaries since the NHS was formed in 1948.

“He presided over deeply unpopular bungled reforms which heralded rising waiting lists, £20bn cuts to services (and) job losses to thousands of nurses and other health workers.

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “In challenging times for the health service, the RCN has not seen eye to eye with Andrew Lansley on the Government’s health reforms.

“The RCN will now be looking to work with incoming Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt to ensure that the nursing voice is heard.

There was some surprise at Mr Hunt’s promotion only months after his job at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had looked untenable following revelations about his links to News International during the Leveson Inquiry.

The forced departure of his special adviser, Adam Smith, did little to quell Labour calls for Mr Hunt to be sacked, and even his Liberal Democrat coalition partners could not bring themselves to back him in a confidence motion in the Commons.

But David Cameron stood by him throughout the affair, and after overseeing a highly successful Olympic Games Mr Hunt has now been handed one of the biggest jobs in Government.