Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt at the BCCJ

Dec. 9, 2016


On the morning of 9 December 2016, Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, was welcomed by BCCJ members and guests on the 24th floor of The Peninsula Tokyo where he spoke over breakfast about his responsibility for the business, policies, and finances of the Department of Health, his former role as Culture Secretary in the organisation of the London Olympics and Paralympics, and about his entrepreneurial experiences in Japan.

The speaker opened the session by talking about his fondness for Japan where he spent two years living and teaching English, and where he later spent time trying to import marmalade. After establishing he had "missed the marmalade boom", he returned to London where he published guides designed for Japanese students in England

"I have always had a good relationship with Japan. It is a country I admire greatly for its professionalism and I like that the Japanese are focused on getting their products right - in Japan it's not just about profits, but about quality." He encouraged entrepreneurs to try their luck in Japan. "It is highly competitive, but if you have the right product and you have success here, then you can make it anywhere."

In the Q&A session, Hunt first spoke about his involvement in the preparation for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in London, saying he had been "incredibly lucky to work with London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe and chief executive Paul Deighton who were superb - an absolute Rolls Royce of a team." Hunt described his job as being as prepared as possible for things that might go wrong such as stocking up on millions of rain ponchos and stopping all roadworks during the Olympics period to ensure a smooth flow of traffic in the capital.

The speaker emphasised the need for sustainable facilities and legacy, and also highlighted the chance for Japan to become the pioneer in Asia by promoting the Paralympics and using this chance to change people's attitudes to disabled people. "I am convinced Japan will do a marvellous job and that the Games will be a great success. It is a great moment of national pride."

With regard to Olympic athletes and what we can learn from them, Hunt spoke of what he learned from the champions who said that their success came from mental strength, not just physical strength. "In post-Brexit times, this is something we have to remember as a country. We have to listen to the people."

Answering a question about the NHS, Hunt said, "Since it was set up in 1948 the NHS has come to symbolise a deeply held belief about what it means to be British. Many of our values are tied up in the NHS. I think we are all deeply proud to live in a country where everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances, has access to healthcare. I want us to offer the best healthcare in the world and that is why it is important to tackle areas where it is not at its best."

Hunt emphasised the need to become less hospital-centric in order to ensure sustainabillity. "We must get better at keeping people healthy so they don't have to go to hospital. Something I am proud of is the big movement in the UK for improving patient safety standards. Spreading good practice and sharing knowledge between countries is the way forward."

In reference to Brexit, the speaker emphasised that the EU referendum had opened the government's eyes to the the struggles and dissatisfaction of the the public. "People voted for Brexit either because they had concerns about sovereignty or because they felt they'd been betrayed by the government. Brexit was caused because we neglected to build a country of which everyone feels a part, which is why Theresa May's core message is that she wants a country that works for everyone." Hunt also emphasised the importance of improving education standards in the UK, ensuring that those who don't attend university still get a good education.

Hunt emphasised that any changes in immigration policy will not affect highly skilled labour and that there was therefore no need for concern among international investors. In terms of low skilled labout, the speaker highlighted the government's aim to better train local people. "The UK needs more apprenticeships and promotion opportunities. We have to offer career prospects and offer a way to higher skilled jobs in order to encourage British workers into lower skilled employment."

The speaker spoke with great enthusiasm and positivity about the important role the UK plays in the life sciences and healthcare sectors. "The UK is pitvotal in driving innovation and change in medicine, which will transform humanity as the US did with the introduction of the Internet. Just as the US led in tech and Internet in Silicon Valley, the UK is now leading in medical research and development. Extraordinary things are happening and the UK is at the forefront. Medicine is a huge area of advantage for the UK and there are massive investments as it is one of the few places that provides academic strength in a pro-businesss environment."

The Secretary for Health concluded his talk by expressing his sincere thanks to Japan's UK Ambassador, Tim Hitchens CMG, LVO for his incredible achievements over the course of his fours years in Japan.

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