Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The secretary of state for health and social care, also referred to as the health secretary, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for the work of the Department of Health and Social Care.[1] The incumbent is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom, eighth in the ministerial ranking.[2]

Secretary of State
for Health and Social Care
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Steve Barclay Official Portrait Cropped.jpg
Steve Barclay

since 25 October 2022
Department of Health and Social Care
StyleHealth Secretary
The Right Honourable
(UK and the Commonwealth)
Member of
Reports toPrime Minister of the United Kingdom
AppointerThe Crown
on advice of the Prime Minister
Term lengthAt His Majesty's pleasure
Formation14 October 1854
First holderSir Benjamin Hall
Salary£143,552 (including salary as MP) Edit this at Wikidata

The position can trace its roots back to the nineteenth century, and has been a secretary of state position since 1968. For 30 years, from 1988 to 2018, the position was titled Secretary of State for Health, before Prime Minister Theresa May added "and Social Care" to the designation in the 2018 British cabinet reshuffle.[3]

The office holder works alongside the other health and social care ministers. The corresponding shadow minister is the shadow secretary of state for health and social care, and the secretary of state is also scrutinised by the Health and Social Care Select Committee.[4]

The current health secretary is Steve Barclay who was appointed by Rishi Sunak on 25 October 2022.


Corresponding to what is generally known as a health minister in many other countries, the health secretary's remit includes the following:

  • Oversight of England's National Health Service, including:
    • Delivery of care
    • Performance
    • Fiscal consolidation
    • Financial management[5]
  • Matters concerning England's social care policy (although responsibility is shared with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government in respect of adult social care, and the Department for Education in respect of children's social care).
  • Matters concerning England's national public health
  • Relations with international health partnerships (WHO)


The first Boards of Health were created by Orders in Council dated 21 June, 14 November and 21 November 1831. In 1848, a General Board of Health was created with lay members as its leadership[6] and the first commissioner of woods and forests as its president. In 1854, this board was reconstituted and the president appointed separately. However, the board was abolished in 1858 and its function of overseeing the local boards was transferred to a new Local Government Act Office within the Home Office. From 1871, that function was transferred to the new Local Government Board.

The Ministry of Health was created in by the Ministry of Health Act 1919 as a reconstruction of the Local Government Board. Local government functions were eventually transferred to the minister of housing and local government, leaving the Health Ministry in charge of Health proper.

From 1968, it was amalgamated with the Ministry of Social Security under the secretary of state for social services, until a de-merger of the Department of Health and Social Security on 25 July 1988.

Since devolution in 1999, the position holder's responsibility for the NHS is mainly restricted to the health service in England, with the holder's counterparts in Scotland and Wales responsible for the NHS in Scotland and Wales. Prior to devolution, the secretaries of state for Scotland and Wales had those respective responsibilities, but the Department of Health had a larger role than now in the co-ordination of health policy across Great Britain. Health services in Northern Ireland have always had separate arrangements from the rest of the UK, and are currently the responsibility of the health minister in the Northern Ireland Executive.

A small number of health issues remain reserved matters, that is, they are not devolved.

According to Jeremy Hunt the department receives more letters than any other government department and there are 50 officials in the correspondence unit.[7]

List of ministersEdit

Colour key (for political parties):
   Whig    Conservative    Radical    Peelite    Liberal    Labour    Unionist    National Labour    National Liberal

President of the Board of Health (1848–1858)Edit

President of the Board Term of office Political party Prime Minister
As First Commissioner of Woods and Forests Lord John Russell
  The Earl of Carlisle 1848 17 April 1849 Whig
  Lord Seymour
MP for Totnes
17 April 1849 1 August 1851 Whig
As First Commissioner of Works
  Lord Seymour
MP for Totnes
1 August 1851 21 February 1852 Whig
  Lord John Manners
MP for Colchester
4 March 1852 17 December 1852 Conservative The Earl of Derby
  William Molesworth
MP for Southwark
5 January 1853 14 October 1854 Radical The Earl of Aberdeen
President of the Board of Health
  Benjamin Hall
MP for Marylebone
14 October 1854 13 August 1855 Whig
The Viscount Palmerston
  William Cowper
MP for Hertford
13 August 1855 9 February 1857 Whig
  William Monsell
MP for County Limerick
9 February 1857 24 September 1857 Whig
  William Cowper
MP for Hertford
24 September 1857 21 February 1858 Whig
  Charles Adderley
MP for Staffordshire Northern
8 March 1858 1 September 1858 Conservative The Earl of Derby
Board of Health abolished in 1858; responsibilities transferred to
the Privy Council (1858–1871), then the Local Government Board (1871–1919).

Minister of Health (1919–1968)Edit

Minister Term of office Political party Prime Minister
  Christopher Addison
MP for Shoreditch
24 June 1919 1 April 1921 Liberal David Lloyd George
  Alfred Mond
MP for Swansea West
1 April 1921 19 October 1922 Liberal
  Arthur Griffith-Boscawen
MP for Taunton
24 October 1922 7 March 1923
(Lost seat 1922)
Conservative Bonar Law
  Neville Chamberlain
MP for Birmingham Ladywood
7 March 1923 27 August 1923 Conservative
Stanley Baldwin
  William Joynson-Hicks
MP for Twickenham
27 August 1923 22 January 1924 Conservative
  John Wheatley
MP for Glasgow Shettleston
22 January 1924 3 November 1924 Labour Ramsay MacDonald
  Neville Chamberlain
MP for Birmingham Ladywood then Birmingham Edgbaston
6 November 1924 4 June 1929 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
  Arthur Greenwood
MP for Nelson and Colne
7 June 1929 24 August 1931 Labour Ramsay MacDonald
  Neville Chamberlain
MP for Birmingham Edgbaston
25 August 1931 5 November 1931 Conservative Ramsay MacDonald
(1st National Min.;
2nd National Min.)
  Hilton Young
MP for Sevenoaks
5 November 1931 7 June 1935 Conservative
  Kingsley Wood
MP for Woolwich West
7 June 1935 16 May 1938 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
(3rd National Min.)
Neville Chamberlain
(4th National Min.;
War Coalition)
  Walter Elliot
MP for Glasgow Kelvingrove
16 May 1938 13 May 1940 Unionist
  Malcolm MacDonald
MP for Ross and Cromarty
13 May 1940 8 February 1941 National Labour Winston Churchill
(War Coalition;
Caretaker Min.)
  Ernest Brown
MP for Leith
8 February 1941 11 November 1943 National Liberal
  Henry Willink
MP for Croydon North
11 November 1943 26 July 1945 Conservative
  Aneurin Bevan
MP for Ebbw Vale
3 August 1945 17 January 1951 Labour Clement Attlee
  Hilary Marquand
MP for Middlesbrough East
17 January 1951 26 October 1951 Labour
  Harry Crookshank
MP for Gainsborough
30 October 1951 7 May 1952 Conservative Winston Churchill
  Iain Macleod
MP for Enfield West
7 May 1952 20 December 1955 Conservative
Anthony Eden
  Robin Turton
MP for Thirsk and Malton
20 December 1955 16 January 1957 Conservative
  Dennis Vosper
MP for Runcorn
16 January 1957 17 September 1957 Conservative Harold Macmillan
  Derek Walker-Smith
MP for East Hertfordshire
17 September 1957 27 July 1960 Conservative
  Enoch Powell
MP for Wolverhampton South West
27 July 1960 20 October 1963 Conservative
  Anthony Barber
MP for Doncaster then Altrincham and Sale
20 October 1963 16 October 1964 Conservative Alec Douglas-Home
  Kenneth Robinson
MP for St. Pancras North
18 October 1964 1 November 1968 Labour Harold Wilson
Post merged with Ministry for Social Security in 1968.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Services (1968–1988)Edit

Secretary of State Term of office Political party Prime Minister
  Richard Crossman
MP for Coventry East
1 November 1968 19 June 1970 Labour Harold Wilson
  Keith Joseph
MP for Leeds North East
20 June 1970 4 March 1974 Conservative Edward Heath
  Barbara Castle
MP for Blackburn
5 March 1974 8 April 1976 Labour Harold Wilson
  David Ennals
MP for Norwich North
8 April 1976 4 May 1979 Labour James Callaghan
  Patrick Jenkin
MP for Wanstead and Woodford
5 May 1979 14 September 1981 Conservative Margaret Thatcher
  Norman Fowler
MP for Sutton Coldfield
14 September 1981 13 June 1987 Conservative
  John Moore
MP for Croydon Central
13 June 1987 25 July 1988 Conservative
Post split into Secretary of State for Social Security and Secretary of State for Health in 1988.

Secretary of State for Health (1988–2018)Edit

Secretary of State Term of office Political party Prime Minister
  Kenneth Clarke
MP for Rushcliffe
25 July 1988 2 November 1990 Conservative Margaret Thatcher
  William Waldegrave
MP for Bristol West
2 November 1990 10 April 1992 Conservative
John Major
  Virginia Bottomley
MP for South West Surrey
10 April 1992 5 July 1995 Conservative
  Stephen Dorrell
MP for Loughborough then Charnwood
5 July 1995 2 May 1997 Conservative
  Frank Dobson
MP for Holborn and St. Pancras
3 May 1997 11 October 1999 Labour Tony Blair
  Alan Milburn
MP for Darlington
11 October 1999 13 June 2003 Labour
  John Reid
MP for Hamilton North and Bellshill then Airdrie and Shotts
13 June 2003 6 May 2005 Labour
  Patricia Hewitt
MP for Leicester West
6 May 2005 28 June 2007 Labour
  Alan Johnson
MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle
28 June 2007 5 June 2009 Labour Gordon Brown
  Andy Burnham
MP for Leigh
5 June 2009 11 May 2010 Labour
  Andrew Lansley
MP for South Cambridgeshire
11 May 2010 4 September 2012 Conservative David Cameron
  Jeremy Hunt
MP for South West Surrey
4 September 2012 8 January 2018 Conservative
David Cameron
Theresa May

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (2018–present)Edit

Secretary of State Term of office Political party Prime Minister
  Jeremy Hunt
MP for South West Surrey
8 January 2018 9 July 2018 Conservative Theresa May


  Matt Hancock
MP for West Suffolk
9 July 2018 26 June 2021 Conservative
Boris Johnson


  Sajid Javid
MP for Bromsgrove
26 June 2021 5 July 2022 Conservative Boris Johnson


  Steve Barclay
MP for North East Cambridgeshire
5 July 2022 6 September 2022 Conservative
  Thérèse Coffey
MP for Suffolk Coastal
6 September 2022 25 October 2022 Conservative Liz Truss
  Steve Barclay
MP for North East Cambridgeshire
25 October 2022 Incumbent Conservative Rishi Sunak

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Secretary of State for Health and Social Care". Retrieved 29 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "His Majesty's Government: The Cabinet". Retrieved 30 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Jeremy Hunt keeps Heath Secretary with added social care brief despite overseeing NHS 'winter crisis'". The Independent. 8 January 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2021. Jeremy Hunt has kept his job as Health Secretary, despite overseeing what is widely viewed as a winter crisis in the NHS. However, Theresa May has added social care to his responsibilities, to signal her determination to sort out one of the biggest issues facing the country.
  4. ^ "Health Secretary answers questions on the Government's handling of the pandemic". UK PARLIAMENT. 4 June 2021. Retrieved 12 March 2022. Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, answers questions from MPs on the Government's handling of the covid-19 pandemic.
  5. ^ "Secretary of State for Health and Social Care - GOV.UK".
  6. ^ "4 Dec 1848, 5 - The Observer at". Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  7. ^ Hunt, Jeremy (2022). Zero. London: Swift Press. p. 14. ISBN 9781800751224.

External linksEdit