Most immediate priority is getting through pandemic, says Javid

Sajid Javid has said his “most immediate priority” will be getting the country through the coronavirus pandemic, as he took up the job of Health Secretary.

Speaking to the media for the first time since he took over from Matt Hancock on Saturday, Mr Javid said he recognised the “huge responsibility” which faced him.

And he pledged to “do everything I can to make sure that I deliver for this great country”.

Mr Javid’s return to the Cabinet came just 90 minutes after Mr Hancock announced his resignation on Saturday, following the leaking of video footage showing him breaking social distancing rules by kissing an aide in his ministerial office.

Mr Javid, a former chancellor and home secretary, said Mr Hancock had worked “incredibly hard” and “achieved a lot”, and he added: “We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible and that will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s chair of council, said: “Sajid Javid has a huge and urgent task ahead.

“He must ensure completing the roll-out of the adult vaccination programme at rapid pace to control spiralling infection rates. He must also put forward a credible plan to tackle a backlog of care of unprecedented scale whilst at the same time rebuilding the trust of doctors and the wider healthcare workforce.”

The health and care workforce will not only need looking after following a punishing year, but will need bolstering too.

A survey released by NHS Providers – which represents NHS trusts – earlier this week showed almost half (48%) of leaders said they have seen evidence of staff leaving their organisation due to early retirement, Covid-19 burnout or other effects from working in the pandemic.

While six former health and social care ministers have backed proposals to reform the social care workforce in the absence of long-awaited Government plans.

Mr Javid will face questions over the plan, which the PM said was ready on the steps of Downing Street after the election in December 2019.

Meanwhile, those still in the sector will continue to push for a pay rise amid continuing anger over the Government recommending a 1% increase.

NHS staff were due a pay rise in April, but ministers said they would await the recommendations of the pay review body, which is expected to deliver its report within days.