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Steve Barclay appointed as new health secretary

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Boris Johnson has picked Steve Barclay as the new health secretary following the resignation of Sajid Javid, who stepped down on July 5 after saying he had lost faith in prime minister’s leadership.

Barclay — who had served as chief of staff of the prime minister since February 2022 — was previously a junior health minister in 2018, responsible for NHS workforce and finance, before serving as Brexit secretary, chief secretary to the Treasury, and chancellor of the duchy.

He is the fourth health secretary after Jeremy Hunt, Matt Hancock and Sajid Javid in the past five years.

In a statement on his appointment, Barclay said it was “an honor” to be take up the position, adding: “Our NHS and social care staff have showed us time and again – throughout the pandemic and beyond – what it means to work with compassion and dedication to transform lives.

“This government is investing more than ever before in our NHS and care services to beat the Covid-19 backlogs, recruit 50,000 more nurses, reform social care and ensure patients across the country can access the care they need.”

Late in the evening on July 5, he tweeted:

Welcoming the new secretary of state to his role, PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said that the PSNC would look forward to working with him, the pharmacy minister and officials at the Department of Health and Social Care “to further dialogue about the future role and funding of community pharmacy.”

She added: “He [Barclay] joins the department at a critical time as the NHS continues on the long path to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We see community pharmacy as being a vital element of plans for that recovery and know that we could do so much more, but only with appropriate funding.”

Commenting on the appointment of Barclay, chair of RPS in England Thorrun Govind said: “This is a crucial time for the future of health and care – with continued pressures on teams, changes to NHS structures and organizations, and the need for long-term investment in the workforce.

“I hope the new health secretary will engage with pharmacy leaders about how we can make the most of our health and care workforce to support the NHS recovery, including reducing health inequalities, managing the growing cost of long-term conditions, and utilising the enhanced skills of Pharmacist Independent Prescribers.

“With a ‘refresh’ of the NHS Long-Term Plan and the Government’s workforce plan expected later this year, these must support a more ambitious approach to advancing the clinical role of pharmacists across the NHS to better meet changing patient demand, backed by investment in pharmacy education and training.

“Sajid Javid recognised the vital role of community pharmacy and the potential of a ‘Pharmacy First’ to support patient access to care. I would urge the new Health Secretary to see this through to completion.”

Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), added: “The same logic that led the previous Health Secretary to announce recently his support for a ‘pharmacy first’ approach to primary care still applies today. Community pharmacy remains well positioned, given the right investment, to support the NHS recovery and take on clinical roles in urgent care, long-term conditions, medicines optimisation and prevention.

“The NPA will of course be in contact with Steve Barclay to offer the hand of partnership for improving access, addressing health inequalities and delivering excellent patient care.

“We maintained a close and constructive dialogue with Sajid Javid and we hope that will continue with his successor.”

Barclay has been the Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire since 2010 and had a relatively slow start to his ministerial career until he was catapulted to a cabinet rank as Brexit secretary in November 2018, having been a ‘Leave supporter’ during the EU referendum.

He read history at Cambridge and spent a gap year serving in the Army with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. After training as a lawyer, he worked as regulator for the Financial Services Authority and later as head of anti-money laundering at Barclays Bank before becoming a politician.

Barclay is married with two children.

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