He takes over from Lord Warner, who retired in December. Ministerial portfolios have also been changed. Health minister Andy Burnham will take Lord Warner's brief for reform, while Lord Hunt will take Mr Burnham's brief for quality.
Lord Hunt's portfolio contains a number of areas currently under fierce debate: safety and quality (including MRSA), the national IT programme, professional regulation, and workforce planning, education, training and pay.
Mr Burnham's additional portfolio gives him responsibility for system reform: reconfigurations, commissioning, choice, plurality, independent sector treatment centres, contestability, and payment by results.
Lord Hunt first became a health minister in July 1999. He resigned his post in March 2003 in protest against the Iraq war. Later that year he was appointed as chair of the National Patient Safety Agency until May 2005, when he returned to government as junior minister at the Department of Work and Pensions.
The former health service manager and first chief executive of the NHS Confederation was widely respected as a 'champion for managers' during his first tenure as health minister.
Lord Hunt joined the service in 1972 at Oxford regional hospital board, later becoming director of the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts.
Acting DoH permanent secretary Hugh Taylor has been appointed to the substantive role. Mr Taylor has been acting in the role since the departure of NHS chief executive and permanent secretary Sir Nigel Crisp last March.
His duties include line managing social care, care services, equality and human rights, communications, corporate management and development directorates within the DoH, where he is also principal accounting officer.