First published 28th June, updated 1st July 

Sajid Javid has been appointed the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, replacing Matt Hancock after he breached social distancing rules.

The new health minister said he was "honoured" to take up the post and stated his “most immediate priority” will be to get the country “out of this pandemic”.

Early life and political background

Javid was born in Rochdale to a British Pakistani family. The family then moved from Lancashire to Bristol, until Javid began studying Economics and Politics at the University of Exeter, where he joined the Conservative Party.

After completing his degree, Javid worked in business and finance. At the age of 25, he became a Vice President at Chase Manhattan Bank. He later moved to Deutsche Bank in London where he worked as a senior Managing Director to help build its business in emerging market countries. He left in 2009 to pursue his career in politics and was elected the MP for Bromsgrove in 2010.

During his career in politics, he has served as Home Secretary, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Economic and Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

In July 2019, Javid became Chancellor of the Exchequer. After six months in the role, Javid stepped down saying he had “no option” other than to resign after Boris Johnson ordered him to replace all of his political advisers in a cabinet reshuffle. He then returned to life as a backbench MP, before being appointed the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Labour have criticised the appointment of Javid

According to Javid’s voting record, he has consistently voted against restricting the provision of services to private patients by the NHS and has consistently voted for reforming the NHS so GPs buy services on behalf of their patients.

Although Javid has received a great deal of support and backing from other MPs, Labour have criticised the appointment of Javid, saying he had been an "architect of austerity" who oversaw NHS cutbacks during his time as Chancellor.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, told the BBC that as a Treasury Minister, Javid was “responsible” for the NHS entering the pandemic on the back of 10 years of underfunding, understaffing, losing beds and cutbacks.

Ashworth said it is now vital that the new health secretary focuses on “delivering the quality care that patients deserve.” A sentiment which appears to be shared by both the BMA and NHS Providers.

“More than five million patients are now waiting for treatment, demand for mental health and emergency services is rising fast and we face a potentially difficult winter on the horizon. These are significant tasks. This is all alongside making plans to live with Covid-19 over the longer-term,” said Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers.

She continued: “Sajid Javid will also need to ensure the needs of the NHS are represented ahead of the upcoming comprehensive spending review where major decisions about public spending will be made. This includes future funding of the NHS, long-term investment in capital for heath and care and critically, a decision on the future of social care.”

Similarly, the BMA are urging Javid to think again about the Government’s 1% pay proposal, which they say could push senior, experienced doctors into early retirement at a time when we need them most. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said: "Sajid Javid must now show that the Government understands the value of frontline healthcare workers and their critical role in the future of our NHS.”

The health minister must push the reform on social care and address health inequalities across the country, say RCP

The RCP have also released a statement, asking the health secretary to push forward the reform on social care in order to ease the pressure on hospitals and give people with social care needs “the best possible chance of living as independently as possible.”

Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Our most recent survey of members showed that 59% thought it would take over 18 months to get the NHS back on an even keel, and that working under the pressures of the pandemic had taken a toll on both team working and clinicians’ mental health.

“A key priority must be to increase the medical workforce if we are to keep the NHS on sustainable footing. We came into the pandemic carrying a large number of vacancies – 43% of advertised consultant posts in England and Wales went unfilled in 2019 due to lack of suitable applicants. The population is ageing, while at the same time our experienced consultant workforce is retiring.”

Dr Goddard also asks Javid to address the health inequalities that the pandemic has bought into sharp focus. He continued: “Public health, too, needs significant investment given that we have seen that poor underlying health is one of the reasons why the UK is suffering worse than most from Covid-19. But public health investment alone cannot reduce health inequalities. The solution cuts across government departments so we urge Mr Javid to consider a coordinated cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities as work continues to establish the Office for Health Promotion.

“The challenges facing the health and care service as we recover from the pandemic are significant and we look forward to working with the Secretary of State to ensure that the NHS and its clinicians get the necessary resources to deliver the care that patients deserve and expect.”

What can we expect from the new health minister?

Initially, the Prime Minister had said the easing of restrictions could be bought forward to the 5th July, depending on the spread of the Delta variant. However, the government’s scientific advisors are strongly in favour of the 19th July re-opening date, giving the NHS more time to vaccinate as many people as possible.

In his first appearance in front of MPs as health minister, Javid said: "Whilst we decided not to bring forward step 4, we see no reason to go beyond the 19th July. People and businesses need certainty, so we want every step to be irreversible. For me, 19th July is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country." 

Javid said the government based are basing their decision to re-open the country on 19th July on the latest data, which shows that although cases are rising, hospitalisations and deaths remain low, suggesting that vaccinations are weakening the link between infection, serious illness and death. 

As a result of this, Javid's first and immediate priority is to complete the roll-out of the vaccination programme and control the increasing infection rates. This is particularly important for the older generation, who are among the most vulnerable to the virus and who will be disproportionately affected by long NHS waiting times.

Dr Jennifer Burns, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said: “Investment in improving services for older people in the wake of the pandemic must be a top priority for the new Health Secretary.” 

She continued: “Sajid Javid should renew his department's commitment to delivering high-quality, joined-up health and social care for older people. This is now critical as many older people have experienced physical deconditioning as a result of the lockdowns, leaving them more susceptible to other illnesses, falls and hospitalisation.”