Victoria Atkins has been appointed health and social care secretary as part of a major overhaul at the Deparment for Health and Social Care with three of six ministers departing so far.
She succeeds Steve Barclay, who has replaced Therese Coffey as environment secretary in a significant Cabinet reshuffle by prime minister Rishi Sunak today which also saw Suella Braverman ousted from her post as home secretary and former PM David Cameron return to the fold as foreign secretary.
According to reports, Will Quince and Neil O’Brien have both quit as health ministers, after the pair were appointed in September last year.
Atkins (pictured) had been financial secretary to the Treasury since October 2022.
A former justice minister and minister for Afghan resettlement between September 2021 and 6 July 2022, she led the Ministry of Justice’s work on prison operations and policy, youth justice, tackling violence against women and girls, and rape and serious sexual offences.
From 2017 to 2021 Atkins was the parliamentary under secretary of state for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability at the Home Office.
This role included work on domestic abuse, honour-based violence, sexual exploitation and FGM.
She was elected as MP for Louth and Horncastle in May 2015 and was a criminal barrister specialising in prosecuting serious organised crime prior to her election.
Quince was minister for health and secondary care, which included responsibilities for the NHS elective care recovery programme, major diseases such as cancer, screening and the NHS workforce.
O’Brien was minister for primary care and public health which included the primary care backlogs, dentistry, tobacco and health disparities.
Last week as part of the King’s Speech, Sunak’s Conservative government pledged to implement a long-term NHS workforce plan and to cut NHS waiting lists, along with a plan to gradually phase out smoking.
The NHS waiting list has been increasing steadily under the last decade of Conservative governments and stood at more than 7.7 million in August.
Ready to play fullest role possible
Welcoming Atkins’ appointment, David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said the body looked forward to working with her and new team on behalf of the independent sector.
“We hope there will continue to be a clear focus on delivering the Prime Minister’s commitment to cut waiting lists, particularly through delivering on the actions and recommendations of the government’s Elective Recovery Taskforce,” Hare continued.
“The independent sector stands ready to play the fullest possible role, supporting NHS patients, while continuing to provide vital, high-quality care to private patients too.
“We also look forward to continuing work with Ms Atkins and the department on how we can collectively keep driving up standards of quality and safety, building on the excellent progress we’ve seen across the sector in recent years.”
Hare acknowledged the work of Mr Barclay and other outgoing ministers: “We have made good progress under Steve Barclay, and with Will Quince, in prioritising patient choice and acknowledging the role of the independent healthcare sector in enhancing overall healthcare outcomes. We commend their commitment to fostering collaboration and learning between the public and private sectors, which we are sure will continue.
“The recommendations from the Elective Recovery Taskforce, where IHPN worked alongside both Mr Barclay and Mr Quince, have provided a framework for how we can work to provide patients with choice, and maximise the impact of the capacity and capability within the independent sector.
“We have seen some progress against implementing the recommendations of the taskforce, which are making it easier for patients to choose where and how they receive care, and helping to reduce waiting times.
“We look forward to working with the new Secretary of State and new ministerial team to make further progress over what is likely to be a challenging winter for the healthcare sector.”