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Connell C - LB Mar 2022

Barclay is new health and social care secretary as Boris throws in the towel

Steve Barclay, Downing Street’s chief of staff, is the new health and social care secretary following Sajid Javid’s dramatic resignation saying that the government was not “acting in the national interest” and that he could “no long continue in good conscience”.

Javid’s move sparked a tsunami of governmental resignations with chancellor Rishi Sunak following suit within minutes, followed by 56 others in quick succession.

Johnson put up a defiant defence as support for him crumbled, suffering a battering in the Commons yesterday that finally floored him this morning as he let it be known he was resigning.

Johnson announced at lunchtime that he will remain in office until a new leader is elected, a process that may take as long as three months to complete. In the meantime ministries are depleted of ministers and it remains unclear whether those resigning will have their resignations revoked or whether new faces will be appointed. This includes health minister Edward Argar who resigned last night.

Barclay, the MP for North East Cambridgeshire, was greeted by immediate calls to provide more funding for the NHS and for pay increases.

Barclay said: “It is an honour to take up the position of health and social care secretary, Our NHS and social care staff have showed us time and again – throughout the pandemic and beyond – what it means to work with compassion and dedication to transform lives. This government is investing more than ever before in our NHS and care services to beat the Covid-19 backlogs, recruit 50,000 more nurses, reform social care and ensure patients across the country can access the care they need.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Mr Javid’s departure presents an opportunity for more realism in the immediate challenges facing the NHS. In particular, there needs to be greater recognition from both the new health and social care secretary and chancellor that if we are to create an NHS that is fit for the future, then this must be reflected in the capital investment it is given.

“Health leaders were aghast by the recent claims that the NHS does not need more money when nine in ten of them told us that their efforts to reduce the size of their lists were being hindered by a decade-long underinvestment in their buildings and estates.”

NHS Providers’ interim chief executive Saffron Cordery added: “On Covid-19, while staff continue to work flat out to reduce waiting lists and ramp up activity, the NHS is in for a bumpy ride over the next few months as it grapples with new and unpredictable variants alongside the pressures that seasonal flu may bring earlier than usual this year. This impacts all parts of the NHS, including mental health, community and ambulance services.

“All eyes will be on how the new health and social care secretary addresses major challenges including serious workforce shortages right across the NHS, the forthcoming NHS pay award amid the cost-of-living crisis, and the government’s New Hospitals Programme which promises to give the NHS much-needed capital investment to benefit patients and the quality of care.

Dolin Bhagawati, vice-chair of Doctors Association UK, commented: “With a record-breaking backlog, rising covid cases, short staffing, retention and recruitment issues as well as pay and conditions problems facing the NHS on its 74th birthday, DAUK calls for a health secretary appointment that is genuinely committed to addressing these very real problems that end up affecting all patients, and not a convenient politically expedient appointment.”

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