New prime minister Rishi Sunak has reappointed Steve Barclay as health secretary, with Therese Coffey moving to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Mr Barclay was health secretary for a short while under Boris Johnson, after Sajid Javid resigned. He was succeeded by Dr Coffey when Liz Truss took over as prime minister.
In 2018, Mr Barclay had served as health minister and became health secretary in July this year. He had been considered a Boris Johnson loyalist and was a fervent supporter of the leave campaign.
Mr Barclay was health secretary for two months until, during which time he approved a 4.5% pay increase for NHS staff, including salaried GPs. However, this wasn’t accompanied by an increase to GP practices to fund these pay rises.
Although during his brief first tenure as health secretary Mr Barclay made very few statements around general practice, before coming to Government, he had criticised elements of the QOF and had called for a harder line on GPs taking voluntary erasure from the GMC register.
BMA council chair Professor Philip Banfield said: ‘As a returning health secretary, Mr Barclay takes the reins as the NHS continues to descend into crisis. In fact, since his first period in office, waiting lists in England have hit a record high of seven million patients needing tests, scans or surgery.
‘With a Prime Minister who has previously said “the NHS will be safe in my hands” and that tackling the backlog was the single biggest public emergency, Mr Barclay should find overwhelming support to give the health service the investment it desperately needs.’
Professor Banfield added: ‘He also needs to meet with doctors – with the BMA – to hear what is needed to make the NHS safe for patients and a place doctors still want to work in; restore pay, fix punitive pension rules that are driving doctors to leave the NHS, and see health and social care through the effects of spiralling inflation.’
Meanwhile, the new Prime Minister has asked former health secretary Jeremy Hunt to continue in his newly-appointed role as Chancellor.
Mr Hunt took over from Kwasi Kwarteng earlier this month, as part of a bid by short-lived Prime Minister Liz Truss to remain in post despite the catastrophic effects of last month’s tax-cutting mini budget.
Immediately upon his appointment, Mr Hunt reversed almost all tax cuts that had been announced except the reversal of hikes to National Insurance (NI).
The BMA has asked him to focus on solving the NHS workforce crisis – including pensions – when delivering a planned medium-term fiscal statement on Monday next week.