Victoria Atkins was appointed Health Secretary on Monday, taking over for Steve Barclay, who had overseen almost a year of work stoppages.
After her predecessor was demoted to the environment brief, the former Treasury minister—who is married to the CEO of a company that owns a sizable legal cannabis farm—faces the difficult task of reconciling with the unions.
In an attempt to reorganize his government prior to the anticipated general election of 2019, Rishi Sunak made a number of significant adjustments to his senior team on Monday.
After dismissing the troubled home secretary Suella Braverman, Mr. Sunak took a political gamble by appointing former prime minister David Cameron, who also held a seat in the Lords, as Foreign Secretary.
This means that, for the first time since the Conservatives took office more than ten years ago, men with private educations are holding the four great offices of state.
Therese Coffey was replaced by Mr. Barclay as Environment Secretary, a move that was widely perceived as a demotion.
The majority of the former health secretary’s tenure was devoted to addressing rolling strikes. He was first appointed to the position in July 2022 and was temporarily removed by Ms. Truss in September before being reinstated by Mr. Sunak.
The wave of crippling industrial action, which included walkouts by nurses, paramedics, and other health staff, resulted in the rescheduling of over a million appointments, operations, and procedures at a cost of £1.4 billion.
After a protracted standoff, the union decided not to call any more strikes in order to allow time for talks with the British Medical Association, which has given rise to some slight cause for optimism in recent weeks.
The health trust association, NHS Providers, stated that Ms. Atkins’s top priority should be finding a solution to the issue.
Her transfer to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) occurred a few days after it was revealed that 7.77 million people in England were on the waiting list for NHS treatment—the greatest number since records were kept in 2007.
The newly appointed Health Secretary, a former barrister and Cambridge graduate, was elected as the MP for Louth and Horncastle in May 2015 and held the position of Financial Secretary to the Treasury for slightly more than a year before being appointed on Monday. She has also worked for the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.
In her capacity as women’s minister, she expressed her “caution” regarding the amount of teenagers receiving treatment for gender reassignment and cautioned that the nation needed to be “particularly alert” to the issue.
Paul Kenward, her spouse, is the CEO of ABF Sugar and manages British Sugar, which cultivates non-psychoactive cannabis for medicinal purposes in a sizable glasshouse located in Wissenden, Norfolk. This glasshouse is reportedly the biggest of its kind in the United Kingdom.