Adult social care gets fourth cabinet minister in two years

Victoria Atkins replaces Steve Barclay as health and social care secretary in government reshuffle

Victoria Atkins
Victoria Atkins (photo: HM Government)

Adult social care has its fourth cabinet minister in two years following Rishi Sunak’s major government reshuffle.

Victoria Atkins has replaced Steve Barclay as health and social care secretary, after the latter spent one year in post in his second stint in the job. Since 2021, the post has also been occupied by Sajid Javid and – briefly, under Liz Truss’s short-lived premiership – Thérèse Coffey.

Atkins, an MP since 2015, was previously a Treasury minister and before that spent four years in the Home Office with responsibility for issues including child sexual abuse and exploitation, violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse, and modern slavery.

Atkins takes up her post ahead of what is likely to be another tough winter for the health and adult social care systems, following the busiest October on record for A&E departments.

NHS focus

With, at most, 14 months until a general election, Sunak will be expecting Atkins to deliver on his priority to cut NHS waiting lists from their post-pandemic high, including by resolving ongoing disputes with junior doctors and consultants.

Atkins highlighted these issues in her opening remarks as secretary of state.

“Our NHS matters to us all, and I look forward to working with NHS and social care colleagues to bolster services during what promises to be a very challenging winter, cut waiting lists and improve patient care,” she said.

“I am also determined to drive forward discussions with striking unions in order to end the ongoing industrial action which has caused so much disruption to patients.”

‘Significant risks’ around cap on care costs

Adult social care is likely to be lower down her list of priorities despite the significant workforce and demand pressures it faces and warnings last week from the National Audit Office (NAO) that the Department of Health and Social Care is lagging behind schedule on its agenda for reforming the sector.

One key decision for Atkins is whether the DHSC should press ahead with its delayed reform to adult social care charging, which would involve the introduction of a cap on care costs by October 2025.

In its report last week, the NAO concluded that there were “significant risks” to the reform being delivered on schedule and work needed to start soon, backed by additional resource.

4 Responses to Adult social care gets fourth cabinet minister in two years

  1. John Barrett November 14, 2023 at 6:24 am #

    It’s a tough job , so many changing MPs and how many have first hand experience of working, management ng Social care and fast paced discharges. Coping with the expectations of professionals, families, managers and MPs . There has to be investment in systems, proceed needs clarifying and needs of adults must be made central to planning. We have adopted a language of buisness and economics to justify rationing under the names of strength based approaches. People in crises need compassion, care and time to process there trauma. Performance management is an anathema to compassion and care. Let’s put the heart back in Community Care.

    • Alec Fraher November 18, 2023 at 7:00 pm #

      performance management, if done correctly, and like say, Vital Signs allows for increased visibility of the needs to move towards or away from particular practice behaviours ~ managerialism is a whole different thing. and, for what it’s worth, i said as much in the HofC Inquiry into Commissioning in 2010, just saying.

      now that we’re out of the EU, the Westminster silence on the social policy dereliction by blind adherence to the EC Directorate of Internal Markets (and democratic cop-out hidden in the stream of compliance with the EC Directives) what’s filling the void?

      the Westminster statecraft needed doesn’t exist anymore ~ unless councillors and Councils start behaving like they are, Local Authorities, again and demand the reunificatuin of children and adults services as one entity

      The Inquiry into Commissioning (HofC, 2010) said the experiments had failed. Competition and internal markets have failed.The mplemention of managerialism has failed.

      Without performance management though we wouldn’t know this ~ that’s the naked truth. We’re at where we’re at because of ego and personality driven agenda’s. There isn’t a crisis, that happened 40 years ago under Thatcherism, there’s now a second generation trauma in the wake of the assault on Local Government ~ it’s not crisis but chaos.

      *for cpd see Complex Society: In the Middle of the Middle World by Bojan Radej and Mojca Golobic (2021), Ch1 introduces the construction of the notion of Chaos as the disassociative conditions which emerge in societal transitions ~ in then out of the EU*

    • Alec Fraher November 19, 2023 at 1:50 pm #

      btw as an aside John have you given thought to performance management approaches NOT as an anathema and diametrically opposed to trauma informed approaches but rather the place for clearing the space for an awareness of adjacent possibilities?

  2. Chris Sterry November 19, 2023 at 4:10 pm #

    Will the new Heath & Social Care SecretaryVictoria AtkinsMP make any different well only by a female replacing a male, but in other aspects no for a complete change of government policy is required and not even a change of governing party will make any different becuse each government is much similar no matter what colour of Party is supposed to be in charge.

    The NHS may get a little more money, but way insufficient, for until social care is really considered then any funding to the NHS will make little or no difference.

    I say social care for governments have to recognise the importance of social care and social care done properly and fully funded for it has not been for years, certainly not since 1984 when I became a family carer and on researching further back well before 1948 also.

    Then social care was mostly family cared for and the degree of some disabilities were nowhere as great as they are now and life expectancy was unheard of, but with medical research greatly improved, life expency has greatly increased, but still much more to go.

    As we are finding increased life expectancy is bringing more complicated and severe conditions
    in genereal age expectancy let alone in disability age expectancy.

    Funding for social care has never been sufficient and with the Tory austerity cuts from 2010 with funding to Local Authorities (LA) being severely reduced for all LA services, social care had eventually also have to have funding cut, but at a time of forever increasing demand. While families could previously cope to some degree, the stresses of caring were increasing in families and so a greater need of social care services, but with LAs having reduced resources due to funding cuts.

    That in turn over the years created much more health inequalities causing more demand on NHS services which were also suffering funding reductions with ever increasing demand. Reducing supply and increasing demand in both social care and the NHS, is there any wonder the crisis of today in both social care and the NHS is there.

    This is vastly down to government lacking in their foresight either by ignorance or deliberate and I feel the latter. The NHS is unable to cope with the demand so longer waiting lists, insufficient beds, ambulances waiting increasing and then insufficient ambulances for demand occurring.

    While some of this is down to some NHS resources lacking, much more is down to the lack of available social care, not only leading to bed blocking but more and more complicated health needs, which if sufficient social care had been there would have been considerably minimised.

    The government has to see that the NHS can’t survive without social care and social care can’t survive without the NHS, if one goes so does the other.

    Perhaps this is the real government policy, but they will never admit it, but it can be the only real conclusion.

    I don’t expect any improvement while I so wish there were, but I can see both social care and the NHS continue to decline until neither are really there. Weell at least the government will get their wish to decrease the welfare budget, not by getting people into work, but by people not being there for they will be deceased due to insufficient social care and NHS.

    That is our real future and one not to to look forward to.