Victoria Atkins has been appointed as the new health secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle, Downing Street has confirmed.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has appointed the Lincolnshire MP to succeed Steve Barclay in the reshuffle of his top team today.
Mr Barclay will stay in the Cabinet as environment, food and rural affairs secretary.
Ms Atkins has been the MP for Louth and Horncastle since 2015 and was previously financial secretary to the Treasury, minister for prisons and probation, and minister for Afghan resettlement.
Before becoming an MP, she worked as a criminal barrister specialised in prosecuting serious organised crime.
Ms Atkins’ appointment makes her the seventh MP appointed to the post since 2018.
BMA council chair Professor Philip Banfield said that as new health secretary, she ‘must make solving the NHS workforce crisis her top priority’.
He said: ‘Negotiations to find a fair way forward to restore doctors’ lost pay and value their unique expertise must continue unabated. Long waiting lists and striking doctors have the same root causes – a catastrophic and chronic under-investment in our NHS.
‘Time is almost up to get credible pay offers on the table; an opportunity to both end strikes and boost the recruitment and retention of doctors.
‘This would not just get long-suffering patients the planned care they need, but give us some glimmer of hope, however slim, of getting through this winter more safely.
‘It would be disastrous if the revolving door of health secretaries was responsible for the failure of talks and further strike action.
‘The BMA calls on Ms Atkins to do what is required without delay and take action to rebuild a health service that is fit for purpose and for patients.’
Parliamentary health and social care committee chair Steve Brine said Ms Atkins’ appointment comes ‘at a critical time for the NHS’ with the number of patients waiting for treatment at a record high.
He said: ‘Preventing ill-health will be key to helping the NHS manage its resources. Prevention is one of this committee’s priorities and I hope it will be high up the on new Secretary of State’s agenda too.
‘I thank Steve Barclay for his work at the Department of Health and Social Care and wish him well in his new role.’
Following the announcement, Labour’s shadow health minister Wes Streeting said: ‘In just under two years that I’ve been shadow health and social care secretary I’ve shadowed four Tory secretaries of state and I’m now onto my fifth.
‘This isn’t government. It’s a clown show. Patients are paying the price. Only Labour can offer the change our country needs.’
The Doctors’ Association UK welcomed Ms Atkins to her new role and called on her to ‘engage more effectively and meaningfully’ with frontline staff in the NHS.
Co-chair of DAUK Helen Fernandes said: ‘During his tenure, Steve Barclay failed to address several critical issues raised by healthcare professionals.
‘Our concerns regarding pay, working conditions, and the regulation and scope of roles such as physician associates and anaesthesia associates were not adequately met.
‘These issues are paramount in ensuring the quality and safety of patient care, as well as maintaining the morale and retention of healthcare staff.
‘We call on Victoria Atkins to prioritise these concerns and work collaboratively with the DAUK and other healthcare bodies.’
Earlier today, primary care minister Neil O’Brien resigned from his post, saying that he wants to focus on constituency work and time with his family.
It comes as other junior ministers, including minister for Health and Secondary Care Will Quince have also handed in their resignations.
Mr Barclay was health secretary for a short while under Boris Johnson, after Sajid Javid resigned. He was succeeded by Dr Coffey when Liz Truss took over as prime minister and reappointed to the post in October last year.