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Victoria Atkins named new health secretary as Barclay moved on

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Victoria Atkins named new health secretary as Barclay moved on

Prime minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle yesterday resulted in Steve Barclay being replaced as health secretary and appointed to head up the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in what has been described as a demotion.

Victoria Atkins was announced as the new secretary of state for social care, becoming the fifth person to hold the post since 2021. Ms Atkins is the MP for Louth and Horncastle, and until yesterday served as financial secretary to the Treasury. She previously worked as a barrister specialising in fraud cases.

She said in a statement: “Our NHS matters to us all, and I look forward to working with NHS and social care colleagues to bolster services during what promises to be a very challenging winter period, cut waiting lists and improve patient care.”

Ms Atkins has not previously held a health brief but has campaigned on behalf of diabetes patients and was described by Community Pharmacy England as “well briefed on community pharmacy,” having attended several of CPE’s parliamentary events.

Mr Barclay was made health secretary for the second time last October, having served a two-month stint in the summer of 2022. 

CPE chief executive Janet Morrison welcomed the new secretary of state and said CPE looks forward “to strengthening that connection,” adding: “She joins the department at a pivotal moment for community pharmacy as we hope to soon be implementing the most significant investment for the sector in over a decade.

“The introduction of a national Pharmacy First service is expected to be a game-changer for the public and the NHS, but it must also be the start of longer-term sustainable funding models for community pharmacy.

“We look forward to working constructively with Ms Atkins and her colleagues to secure a sustainable future for community pharmacy that also supports their goals. This includes early discussions on the way forward and the implementation of the Vision for Community Pharmacy.”

MP for Winchester Steve Brine, who previously served as pharmacy minister and now heads up the health select committee, welcomed the appointment of Ms Atkins at “a critical time for the NHS” and urged her to make disease prevention a priority.

At the time of publication the Government had not yet confirmed who the new pharmacy minister will be following Neil O’Brien’s resignation as parliamentary under-secretary of state for primary care and public health yesterday. Secondary care minister Will Quince also resigned yesterday.

Andrew Stephenson and Andrea Leadsom have both been named as newly appointed health ministers, but there is no information yet on their respective briefs.

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