Prime Minister Boris Johnson has named Steve Barclay as his new health and social care secretary, following Sajid Javid’s resignation yesterday evening.
Mr Barclay has most recently served as Number 10’s chief of staff – a new role that was created in light of the ‘partygate’ scandal – and as minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster since last year.
Mr Barclay has served as health minister before – from January to November 2018. But he is most notable for being a Johnson loyalist and a fervent supporter of the leave campaign.
He was also Brexit secretary from 2018 to 2020 and chief secretary to the Treasury from 2020 to 2021.
Mr Javid said in his resignation letter that Mr Johnson had ‘lost his confidence’ and that he could not carry on serving him ‘in good faith’.
Commenting on his appointment, Mr Barclay said: ‘It is an honour to take up the position of health and social care 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.
‘This government is investing more than ever before in our NHS and care services to beat the Covid backlogs, recruit 50,000 more nurses, reform social care and ensure patients across the country can access the care they need.’
Responding the appointment, Carol Popplestone, RCN chair of council, said Mr Barclay’s ‘imminent decision’ on NHS pay ‘will send the first and greatest signal on the relationship Mr Barclay wants with his health and care workforce’.
She continued: ‘We urge him to listen and then act. Our members face incredible hardship – struggling to pay the bills and going to food banks – and it is in no small part down to a decade of pay cuts by government.
‘This dire situation is driving people out of nursing and adding to the staffing crisis. His action in the next few days can begin to turn the tide for these people who give so much of themselves to their work and the nation’s health.’
Sajid Javid’s mark on primary care and nursing
Mr Javid took the role of health secretary in June 2021, following the resignation of Matt Hancock, who was caught kissing a colleague in a lift, against lockdown regulations.
His main involvement in general practice was his call for GPs to see more patients face to face, and in October last year he released the winter access fund, which promised £250m worth of funding in return for a number of measures described as ‘draconian’ by GP leaders.
Unions and umbrella bodies have called on the newly appointed health and social care secretary to tackle the nursing shortages as a priority when Mr Javid was appointed in June 2021.
He was also rumoured to be looking at hospitals taking over GP services, following on from the model in Wolverhampton, where the trusts runs ten separate practices. Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who served as vaccines minister during Covid, has been appointed Chancellor, replacing Mr Sunak. Mr Johnson has also faced a string of other more junior resignations since yesterday evening.
This followed the latest scandal in Number 10, which faced allegations of dishonesty regarding what Mr Johnson knew about prior misconduct allegations against MP Chris Pincher prior to appointing him deputy chief whip.