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Second chance for Steve Barclay as health sec after Thérèse Coffey ousted

Steve Barclay has been re-appointed as health secretary following new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle, No 10 has confirmed.

It follows Thérèse Coffey’s brief 49-day tenure as health secretary and deputy prime minister, under Liz Truss’ premiership.

She returns to the cabinet as secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, No 10 confirmed this evening (October 25).

Mr Barclay undertook the role of health secretary in July for two months, serving under Boris Johnson following a cabinet shake-up after a slew of resignations.

He is the third person to have held the health secretary role in four months.

 

 

Services “can often best be delivered by a pharmacist”

 

During his two-month stint as health secretary, Mr Barclay made little reference to the pharmacy sector. He did however approve an uplift to the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales in July, which saw the annual maximum reimbursable amount for PCN ‘clinical’ pharmacists increase last month.

In a House of Commons debate on access to general practice in July, he also acknowledged that “not all appointments are, or should be, with GPs” and that the “right service to patients...can often best be delivered by a pharmacist”.

During his tenure, the Health and Social Care Committee – led by now-Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – published its report calling for an “integrated and funded” pharmacy workforce plan to be developed and laid before parliament within the next year.

Mr Barclay now takes on the health secretary brief again, at a time the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has labelled “crucial” for community pharmacy “due to chronic underfunding”.

However, the negotiator has welcomed his appointment, revealing that it “successfully concluded negotiations” for years 4 and 5 of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework under Mr Barclay's previous tenure.

“We were very grateful to him for all his efforts during this process,” PSNC CEO Janet Morrison added.

Read more: Maria Caulfield: Pharmacy reform update to come in matter of weeks

He also inherits his predecessors’ intentions to reform primary care – starting with pharmacy – first announced by Sajid Javid at the NHS ConfedExpo in Liverpool in June and later expanded by Ms Coffey in her Our plan for patients policy paper.

In it, she envisaged giving pharmacists “more prescribing powers” and expanding “the range of services available from community pharmacies”.

In June, then-pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield also told C+D that an announcement on the government’s planned pharmacy overhaul was only “weeks away”.

However, the DH told C+D in August that it was unable to share an update on this planned reform.

 

Previously served as health minister

 

Mr Barclay also previously served as a health minister – from January to November 2018 – under former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock.

His previous roles also include chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and chief of staff – which he held prior to becoming health secretary, secretary of state for exiting the European Union from 2018 to 2020 and chief secretary to the Treasury from 2020 to 2021.

He had been considered a Boris Johnson loyalist and was a vocal leave campaigner.

He has been MP for North East Cambridgeshire since 2010.

In a statement on Twitter following the announcement, Mr Barclay said he was “delighted to return to the DH” and was “looking forward to working with colleagues across health and social care”.

Meanwhile, Ms Coffey also took to Twitter to thank her “great ministerial team” at the DH.

“We achieved a lot together in seven weeks. Thank you to our civil servants and all those working in health and social care,” she added.

 

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