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DH appoints Neil O’Brien as new pharmacy minister

Conservative MP Neil O’Brien has been appointed as the health minister with responsibility for primary care, which includes pharmacy, taking over from Will Quince, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has confirmed.

It follows Mr Quince’s short tenure as the minister with responsibility for primary care – a position he was appointed to in September. He remains a health minister, but his portfolio now focuses on health and secondary care.

Mr O’Brien’s appointment follows yet another government reshuffle, with Steve Barclay snagging a second chance as health secretary after a brief two months in the post over the summer.

Mr O’Brien was first appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the DH earlier in September, under Liz Truss’ tenure as Prime Minister.


Previous roles


Mr O’Brien is the MP for Harborough in Leicestershire – a position he has held since June 2017.

He was previously Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities between September 2021 and July 2022, before he resigned as many other ministers did in the lead up to Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister.

Prior to this, he held the role of co-chair of the Conservative Party Policy Board between November 2020 and September 2021. From May 2021, he was appointed the Prime Minister’s Levelling Up Adviser.

He also served as a parliamentary private secretary to ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy between August 2018 and July 2019.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr O’Brien was highly critical of some prominent Conservative media figures and COVID-19 sceptics, who persistently played down the impact of the virus.

Now as minister for primary care and public health, his role will oversee the following policy areas:

  • primary care:
    • general practice
    • pharmacy
    • ophthalmology
    • primary care backlogs
    • primary care workforce
    • 50 million GP appointments
    • dentistry
    • prescription charges
  • Blood, transplant and organs
  • UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA):
    • COVID-19 – COVID-19 status certification, variant tracing, shielding
    • environmental health (air quality, chemicals, radiation)
    • health security at the border
    • infectious diseases (including monkeypox)
    • seasonal flu
  • vaccines:
    • COVID-19 vaccine deployment and uptake
    • routine immunisations and vaccinations
  • Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID):
    • tobacco
    • obesity
    • alcohol, drugs and addiction
    • NHS Health Checks
    • children’s health, Start for Life
    • sexual health
  • long COVID
  • antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and global health security
  • emergency preparedness including Ukraine
  • sponsorship of:
    • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)
    • UKHSA
    • Food Standards Agency (FSA)


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