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New Health Secretary – what will Steve Barclay bring to the job?

Steve Barclay was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 5 July 2022 following the resignations of Sajid Javid and nearly 60 other MPs, culminating in Boris Johnson being forced to resign as Prime Minister.

In a statement released 5th July, the Cambridgeshire MP said it was “an honour” to be appointed health secretary.

“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,” he said.

The government, he added “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”.

Who is the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care?

Steve Barclay was previously appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Minister for the Cabinet Office, between 15 September 2021 and July 2022.

Barclay is not new to the Department of Health and Social Care, having previously served as a health minister under former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock in 2018.

He qualified as a solicitor in 1998, working for AXA Insurance, as a regulator for the Financial Services Authority and then Director of Regulatory Affairs then Head of the Anti-Money Laundering & Sanctions at Barclays Bank. After two unsuccessful attempts, he finally became an MP in 2010, becoming chief whip of the treasury in 2015 then Theresa May’s Brexit Secretary in 2018.

He became more prominent when he did a series of interviews this year following publication of a report on the government’s failures during the pandemic and he defended the government's response to COVID-19, saying ministers followed the scientific advice throughout the pandemic.

Voting Record

As the new Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay will be responsible for the health department’s business and policies, which includes financial control and the oversight of the NHS.

Since entering parliament in 2010, he has followed government on votes regarding health issues, which included the 2012 overhaul of the NHS. He was also among 305 MPs who voted to cut pharmacy funding in England, following a parliamentary debate in November 2016, (only one Conservative MP voted against the cuts).

According to parliamentary records, Steve Barclay’s voting history when it comes to issues around health has included:

  • Voting in favour of continued empowerment of GPs to commission services, a strong CQC, and not to reverse a decision to look at cutting admin costs for health services.
  • Voting against allowing terminally ill people to be given assistance to end their life.
  • Voting in favour of cutting pharmacy funding in England.
  • Almost always voting for smoking bans.
  • Consistently voting against restricting the provision of services to private patients by the NHS.

Response from the Professions

The Pulse wrote that Steve Barclay has some history with his opinions on doctors, noting that in 2012 he claimed that GPs were getting £1.6m for ‘writing neatly’.

The Chair of the BMA Council, Professor Philip Banfield, responded to the appointment:

“We have a long under-resourced health service dealing with a record backlog of treatment, rising Covid cases and significant staff shortages. Doctors and their colleagues feel demoralised, devalued and unable to provide the level of care that people need. This is against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis that’s impacting already worsening public health and widening health inequalities

“Together with the Chancellor, the new Secretary of State must make it a priority to put the health service, social care and public health services back on a sustainable footing, providing the investment needed and putting forward a credible plan to both recruit enough staff and, most importantly, retain those who continue to go above and beyond every day for patients and their communities.

“Crucially, this means reversing more than a decade of pay cuts for doctors, some of whom have seen their take-home pay decline by almost a third since 2008, and fixing the pension tax trap that is driving senior doctors out of the profession.”

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) released statements that they were looking forward to working with the new health secretary.

The PSNC Chief Executive Janet Morrison stated she was looking forward to working with the new Health Minister, but argued that they could do “so much more, but only with the appropriate funding”.

What do you think should be the new Health Secretary’s priorities in his new job? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

GT 13/07/2022

Judging by last week's events, are we even sure how long this fella will be in the job ??


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