UK PM Sunak appoints Victoria Atkins as new health minister

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday appointed Victoria Atkins, formerly Financial Secretary to the Treasury, as the new Secretary of State for Health and Social care as part of a reshuffle of his senior team of ministers, his office said.

Atkins replaces Steve Barclay, who was moved to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

She will assume oversight of the National Health Service (NHS), Britain’s state-funded health system that is under pressure from industrial action by health workers and a growing list of patients waiting for treatment.

There are currently around 7.8 million people waiting for NHS treatment, a new record high, compared to about 7 million a year ago.

One of Sunak’s top five priorities is to cut the waiting lists, although he has all but conceded it will now not happen this year, blaming months of industrial action for throwing progress off track.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Alistair Smout, Writing by Sachin Ravikumar)