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Will new health secretary Steve Barclay get the chance to leave his mark?

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 07 July 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1687
  1. Adele Waters
  1. The BMJ

England’s new health and social care secretary arrived in tumultuous circumstances and faces an uphill task in an uncertain political climate, as Adele Waters reports

It’s never easy being the “new boy.” Walking into new territory, all eyes on you, scrutinising your every move and word. It helps to build credibility fast.

But as Steve Barclay was appointed as England’s new health and social care secretary on 6 July, that task had just got a whole lot tougher.

The government was in freefall, reeling from high profile cabinet resignations—his predecessor as health secretary, Sajid Javid, being among the most high profile. Barclay’s boss, the now (seemingly) outgoing Boris Johnson, appointed him to the new role but was being written off as prime minister by most of the national press. As Tory MP resignations mounted (the toll stood at almost 60 by the time Johnson eventually fell on his sword), Barclay may have been wondering if he would even still have his new job by the end of the week.

The job insecurity was not lost on his new adversary Wes Streeting, shadow health and social care secretary, who was quick to tweet, “Congratulations to Steve Barclay on becoming the shortest serving health secretary in history.”

Time will tell how long Barclay is in post for. In the interim, the question for the NHS is: what will he bring if he does survive long …

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