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Victoria Atkins Promoted to England's Health Secretary

Victoria Atkins has been appointed England's new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak carried out a major reshuffle of senior Cabinet positions.

The former financial secretary to the Treasury replaces Steve Barclay, who takes over the top job at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, replacing Therese Coffey.

Ms Atkins had held her position at the Treasury for just over a year, following a spell at the Ministry of Justice where she led work on prison operations and policy, youth justice, and tackling violence against women and girls.

Former Criminal Lawyer

Before she was elected as MP for the Lincolnshire seat of Louth and Horncastle at the 2015 general election, Ms Atkins worked as a criminal barrister, where she specialised in prosecuting international drug trafficking rings, gunrunners, and fraudsters.

Ms Atkins, who is 47, was brought up in Lancashire and read law at the University of Cambridge. Her father is Sir Robert Atkins, a former Conservative MP and MEP, and a minister for sport in the early 1990s.

She is married to Paul Kenward, the CEO of a sugar company.

Critical Issues Face New Health Incumbent

Ms Atkins becomes the fifth person to hold the post of England's Health Secretary in as many years. She replaces Steve Barclay, who held the post twice, most recently from October last year.

The new incumbent now faces tackling industrial action by doctors, rising NHS waiting lists, and the looming prospect of another tough winter for the health service.

Responding to the appointment, the Doctors' Association UK called on Ms Atkins to engage with frontline staff. Co-chair 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."

Royal College of Nursing chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: "Victoria Atkins' first priority must be to get the NHS the extra funding it needs in next week's autumn statement. The current financial settlement is penalising patients – those on waiting lists are being told to wait even longer in a cash-strapped NHS."

NHS providers said Ms Atkins' appointment came at a "critical juncture" for health and social care and urged her to put resolving strike action at the top of her agenda.

The day was also marked by other developments in the Department of Health and Social Care, where Will Quince and Neil O'Brien both resigned from their junior ministerial positions.

The main developments in the Cabinet reshuffle saw David Cameron make a dramatic return to frontline politics. The former Prime Minister was given a seat in the House of Lords to allow him to become Foreign Secretary, replacing James Cleverly who was moved to the Home Office after the sacking of Home Secretary, Suella Braverman.