What is the role of the Secretary of State for Health? What should it be? How far, in an almost entirely tax-funded NHS, can health ministers be removed from the day-to-day operations of the NHS? How far should they be, if the service is to remain accountable to its patients, to taxpayers and to the public at large?

In Glaziers and window breakers, ten former Secretaries of State for Health are asked these questions – and many more. The health secretaries interviewed are:

  • Kenneth Clarke - 'I closed more hospitals than most people had hot dinners.'
  • William Waldegrave - 'Chequers was surrounded by furious journalists and it was all hopeless.'
  • Virginia Bottomley - 'Sometimes you want a window breaker and sometimes you want a glazier.'
  • Stephen Dorrell - 'Of course it doesn’t work if you change it every five years.'
  • Frank Dobson - 'I have no problems with command and control.'
  • Alan Milburn - 'Politics is the trap. And the only thing that can break it is politics.'
  • Patricia Hewitt - 'The discovery of the overspend was a really shocking moment.'
  • Alan Johnson - 'Piss off. I’m dealing with this.'
  • Andy Burnham - 'It’s a hard balance. It’s very hard.'
  • Andrew Lansley - 'The more you try to do, the more you get hit for it.'

In addition to their insight, wisdom and advice, the book contains thorough analysis of their words and the landscape in which they had to operate.

Further reading