Alice Perkins, a career civil servant and wife of home secretary Jack Straw, has been appointed to one of the top jobs at the Department of Health.

She will take over as director of resources and services (principal establishment and finance officer) at the start of next month, and will have 'overall responsibility for the efficient and effective use of DoH resources'.

She succeeds Joe Pilling, who was appointed permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office in December.

Ms Perkins, 48, started her career as a graduate trainee in the Department of Health and Social Security in 1971.

She has held a wide range of jobs and was director of personnel at the Department of Social Security before moving to the Treasury in 1993, where she is currently director of public spending.

In her new post, which comes with a salary in the range pounds75,210 to pounds109,420, Ms Perkins' responsibilities will include expenditure on administration and information technology.