Steve Barclay has been reappointed as secretary of state for health and social care, as part of new prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle.
It is Barclay’s second stint in the role, having briefly served as health secretary between 5 July 2022 and 6 September 2022. He was followed by Thérèse Coffey, who was appointed by former prime minister Liz Truss, and who held the position until 25 October 2022.
Barclay was previously a junior minister in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in 2018, and his other government roles have included chief secretary to the Treasury, secretary of state for exiting the European Union, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Writing on Twitter, Barclay said that he was “delighted” to return to the DHSC as secretary of state, and that he was “looking forward to working with colleagues across health and social care”.
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, renewed her call for the returning health and social care secretary to consider the introduction of a ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme for England.
The proposals were first put forward in October 2021 by Sajid Javid, who held the health and social care brief before Barclay’s first stint in charge of the DHSC.
The RPS called on Barclay during his first tenure as health and social care secretary to see through these proposals, when launching its draft vision for pharmacy practice in England in August 2022.
But plans for a walk-in pharmacy consultation service appeared to have been shelved when an agreement was reached in September 2022 between the government and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) for the final two years of the current community pharmacy contract.
Commenting on Barclay’s appointment, Govind said: “Following the changes over the last few months, I hope ministers will now be able to focus on addressing the key challenges facing the health service and the country. This means not just getting through the winter, but planning for and investing in the future.
“Pharmacists and pharmacy teams will play a key role in enhancing patient access to care and I would urge the minister to support a more ambitious approach to advancing the clinical role of pharmacists across the NHS, including through a ‘Pharmacy First’ approach in England.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the PSNC, said: “During Mr Barclay’s previous tenure, we successfully concluded negotiations for year 4 and 5 of the CPCF [Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework] and we were very grateful to him for all his efforts during this process.
“He rejoins the department at a crucial time for community pharmacy as we continue to experience unsustainable and damaging pressures, due to chronic underfunding of the sector.
“We look forward to working with Mr Barclay, the pharmacy minister and their colleagues to further dialogue about the future role and funding of community pharmacy.”