The Society of Radiographers has responded to the news that Steve Barclay has been replaced by Victoria Atkins as Secretary of State for Health.
Mr Barclay, who had held the health minister position since October 2022, was moved on from his position at the Department for Health and Social Care as part of a cabinet reshuffle, sparked by the sacking of home secretary Suella Braverman on Monday, 13 November.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunakhas replaced Mr Barclay with Victoria Atkins, MP for Louth and Horncaslte, who was previously Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Mr Barclay will take up a new role elsewhere in the cabinet as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Will Quince, Minister of State for Health and Secondary Care, has also left his government role.
The Society of Radiographers has been in dispute with the Department for Health over working conditions for its members in the NHS, including pay stagnation and the workforce shortage.
SoR’s executive director for industrial strategy and member relations, Dean Rogers, said: “Today’s reshuffle in health is not a surprise. Will Quince had already said he wasn’t standing again at the next election. In more normal times that would have excluded him from continuing as a minister. Steve Barclay had failed to resolve the disputes in the NHS over pay and published a long term workforce strategy that forgot to include the strategy. A new set of eyes and ears at the top is timely, especially if they are willing to look and listen at the ideas being brought forward by unions and professional associations like the SoR. We will be looking to engage with the new Secretary of State and her team as soon as possible.”
Mr Rogers added: “However, the fact this is the fifth change of Secretary of State since Matt Hancock left in June 2021, speaks volumes in regard to this government’s approach to the NHS. We need to take the short termism, panic and politics out of the NHS. This is the last opportunity before a general election to change direction and set a path towards a rebuild that sustains a world-class 21st century NHS. This will call for a consensus around increased and long-term stable funding that can sustain a serious long-term workforce strategy. The imminent 2024-24 pay round can signpost this for example, by committing governments (and all future spending plans post an election) to a minimum inflation-plus pay award every year until pay is restored to 2008 levels. A legal mechanism that exists to protect the value of NHS pensions should be applied to the pay of those still working in the NHS. This would hugely boost morale and help both recruitment and retention.
“Ideas like this are what we will be taking to Victoria Atkins and her new teams as soon as she will meet us.”