The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has confirmed that Victoria Atkins has been appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care amid a cabinet shake-up.

The Conservative MP for Louth & Horncastle was appointed to the position today (13 November) during a cabinet reshuffle that saw the previous incumbent, Steve Barclay, removed from his position.

From 2017 to 2021 Victoria Atkins was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability at the Home Office, and then moved on to become Financial Secretary to the Treasury between 27 October and 13 November 2022.

Initially a barrister by trade and with no formal background in the healthcare trade, her husband Paul Kenward is Managing Director of British Sugar, a firm licensed to grow cannabis for use in children’s epilepsy medication.

Now, Atkins will have to helm the government department as it navigates a winter of disruption and potential strikes ahead of the Christmas period.

Steve Barclay has now moved on to take over the position of Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

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The cabinet reshuffle also comes after a landmark decision in the UK courts that saw a critically ill baby at a Nottingham Hospital have his life-support device switched off after the hospital ruled there was nothing more it could do.

This event and its legal ramifications are expected to take up a significant portion of Atkins’ attention from the start of her tenure.

A spokesperson for Nottingham University Hospital Trust said: “We are all deeply saddened by the death of Indi and wish to express our heartfelt condolences to her family at this terribly difficult time. 

“This has been a very long and challenging journey for Indi, her parents and everyone involved, and we will all be holding them in our thoughts.”