Jeremy Hunt waits to deliver a speech at the Evelina London Children's Hospital on July 5, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The Tories can't avoid the blame for hospitals being put in special measures

The emergency action is a damning indictment of the pressures the government has created on the frontline.

Today, Jeremy Hunt shockingly tried to claim credit for the number of hospitals placed in special measures. He spoke as if these problems on the frontline were nothing to do with him – and that his role was simply to call them out. He placed 11 trusts in special measures last year following a review by Sir Bruce Keogh and five more have gone into special measures since.

The truth is that this Tory-led government has caused huge problems in the NHS. And the fact that so many hospitals have had to be placed in special measures is a damning indictment of the pressures the government has created on the frontline – and for which they have never apologised.

In Spring 2013, three years after David Cameron began his vast, top-down reorganisation of the NHS, Bruce Keogh inspected 14 hospital trusts and found worrying care problems. Some of these hospitals had been under pressure for some time. But far from getting to grips with the problems, the Tory-led government made matters far, far worse.

First, they turned the NHS upside down with an unnecessary reorganisation that sucked £3bn out of patient care. When David Cameron was forcing his health Bill through, NHS leaders warned the reorganisation was putting services at risk. But he refused to listen and ploughed on regardless.

Second, in the first three years of the Parliament, Cameron presided over the loss of thousands of NHS nurses. Unsurprisingly, the Keogh Review said nursing shortages were a key cause of the problems they found – yet the government has never taken responsibility for this. The fact that the NHS has now had to scramble to recruit more nurses is an admission the Government made a monumental error letting numbers fall so far in the first place. Equally worrying are the cuts we have seen to nurse training places – 10,000 fewer trained over the last four years – which is only storing up problems for the future.

Astonishingly, Jeremy Hunt talked about the need for transparency in the NHS. But the government still refuses to comply with the Information Commissioner’s ruling that they publish the risk assessment for their NHS reorganisation – despite the fact that Robert Francis, who led the inquiry into Mid-Staffordshire hospital trust, called for these assessments to be made public. Were the government warned their reorganisation would lead to the haemorrhaging of nurses and widespread care problems? Were they warned their reorganisation would hit A&E? While they continue to cover things up, I guess we’ll never know.

The vast majority of NHS staff now say that David Cameron’s reorganisation has harmed patient care. Incredibly, just 3 per cent say it has improved patient care. A recent survey for the Nursing Times found the majority of nurses saying their ward was dangerously understaffed, and more nurses said that safety has worse over the last year than better. The sad truth is that by turning the NHS upside down with a damaging reorganisation and causing a crisis in A&E, the government has made care problems more likely, not less.

I’m proud it was the last Labour government that introduced independent regulation of healthcare, and we support tough inspections of hospitals. That shouldn’t stop us asking how we can prevent care problems occurring in the first place, though – and scrutinising the damage this government has done to patient care.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.