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Former nurse Maria Caulfield appointed pharmacy minister

By Isabel Shaw

24 Sep 2021

Maria Caulfield MP has been appointed as a health minister, with responsibilities including pharmacy, following the latest Cabinet reshuffle.

The MP for Lewes has replaced Joe Churchill as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Patient Safety and Primary Care.

During her time in office, Ms Caulfield will be working alongside the newly appointed Maggie Throup, who will be working as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Vaccines and Public Health.

As part of her new role Ms Caulfield will adopt responsibilities for primary care; community health; major diseases; patient safety; maternity care; inquiries; cosmetic regulation; gender identity services; blood transplants & organ donation, and fertility & embryology.

Ms Caulfield is a nurse by training, having worked in the NHS, where she specialised in cancer care and became a senior sister at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital.

Ms Caulfield’s political career begun in 2007 when she won a seat on Brighton & Hove City Council.

Since, she has been vice-chair of the Conservative Party for Women, and assistant Government Whip. She was also a member of the House of Common Select Committees for Northern Ireland Affairs, Women and Equalities and Exiting the EU.

She has been MP for Lewes in East Sussex since 2015.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Committee (PSNC), welcomed Ms Caulfield to her new role.

‘We look forward to meeting with her at the earliest opportunity and to continuing to work collaboratively with both her and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ensure that community pharmacies can contribute to the Government’s health ambitions.

‘There is much that pharmacy can – and is – doing to support the pandemic recovery and we will ensure that Ms Caulfield is fully briefed on both the challenges ahead for community pharmacies and the vital and valuable roles they play in their local communities,’ he said.

Views on pharmacy

Speaking in a parliamentary debate on pharmacy funding cuts in 2016, Ms Caulfield argued that the ‘funding system for pharmacies in this country is not working’.

She said she found it ‘extraordinary’ that ‘big national companies such as Sainsbury’s, Boots and Asda, many of which make profits of £1 billion a year, are being funded with NHS money, which goes to every one of their branches’.

Ms Caulfield added: ‘The money that is saved through these changes must go to community pharmacies and away from big business.’

She later stood in favour of funding cuts for the pharmacy sector.

During the same debate, she said she did not believe pharmacy was properly understood by the Government.

‘As a practising nurse, I see at first hand every day the role that pharmacists play in safeguarding patients. Doctors often make out prescriptions that are wrong or do not take into account current medications a patient is on. That is where the pharmacist comes in. Thinking that pharmacists simply stand at a counter, pick a box off a shelf and put a sticker on it is misguided; they do a huge amount more,’ she argued.

Ms Caulfield spoke against the movement of pharmacists into GP surgeries.

‘I think that it is a mistake,’ Ms Caulfield said.

‘I would much prefer the approach that is being taken in Scotland, where pharmacies are expanding by having consulting rooms of their own.’

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