Sajid Javid: What's in the new health secretary's in tray?

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston looks ahead to Sajid Javid's big day on Monday

Sajid Javid has said he recognises the “huge responsibility” of his new role as health secretary. Former chancellor and home secretary Mr Javid will be used to taking on all-encompassing briefs, but the coronavirus pandemic has catapulted health to the top of the government’s agenda. British Medical Association (BMA) council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned Mr Javid faces a “baptism of fire”. Here are some of the issues he will be dealing with. Coronavirus pandemic Mr Javid said on Sunday that Covid will be his “most immediate priority”. He told reporters: “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.” An update on the extension of lockdown measures is expected on Monday and Professor Sir Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: “We always have to be driven by the data, not the dates.” Dr Nagpaul warned: “He is going to logistically need to deliver on the vaccination programme because we are still in the midst of a pandemic, we have spiralling numbers of cases now, over 18,000 yesterday, new cases".

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NHS backlog Opposition parties and health leaders have warned of a “perfect storm” to hit the NHS this winter, as a backlog of cases reached more than five million. Dr Nagpaul told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: “We are facing… a record five-plus million patients on waiting lists and that includes about 400,000 who have been waiting more than 12 months and that doesn’t include about 20 million patients who were not seen in outpatient clinics last year". NHS staff burnout Mr Javid will also have to deal with an exhausted NHS workforce following 15 months of the pandemic. 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. Dr Nagpaul said: “About four in 10 say their mental health is worse than before the pandemic significantly, you have one in three saying they are going to be retiring in the next year and about one in five saying they will leave the NHS or reduce their hours".

Social care Six former health and social care ministers have backed proposals to reform the social care workforce in the absence of long-awaited government plans. And Mr Javid will face questions over the plan, which the Prime Minister said was ready on the steps of Downing Street after the election in December 2019. Asked on The Andrew Marr Show whether Mr Javid would fail to deliver on the promises, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “No, I think the team under Matt as well were very focused on delivering on this. The Prime Minister’s focused on it, I think Sajid will be able to press forward.” Mr Hunt added that “if we don’t do something about (social care) that will continue to export its most vulnerable people into our hospitals, and the NHS will never get back on its feet unless we fix that”. Asked how long Mr Javid had, he said: “Six months, because the government have said they will do it by the end of this year".

Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

NHS pay Healthcare workers will continue to push for a pay rise amid continuing anger over the government recommending a 1% increase. Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “NHS staff are exhausted after 16 months of tireless caring for patients during the pandemic – and many are now prepared to leave the health service. “Unless the insulting 1% recommendation from the government is greatly increased, this could be the last straw for many dedicated staff.” Reforms Mr Hancock had been poised to launch the new Health and Social Care Bill in coming days, expected to be the biggest shake-up in health legislation since the Andrew Lansley reforms. It would also hand more power to the Secretary of State. Additionally, Mr Javid will be faced with a decision over who will replace Sir Simon Stevens, who steps down as NHS England chief executive at the end of July. Tory peer Dido Harding, who was executive chair of the government’s coronavirus Test and Trace programme until April this year, has put her hat in the ring as a potential replacement. While NHS England’s board chooses Sir Simon’s replacement, the government – via the health secretary – has a right of veto.

Analysis from ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston

There is no chance of the two-week break clause in the four-week extension of social distancing measures being triggered tomorrow, with the seven-day rolling average of infections rising at more than 50%.

But there will still be a chance to get the measure of Sajid Javid tomorrow by the tenor of his remarks on the prospects for full release from lockdown measure on July 19.

It is, of course, reassuring that despite weeks of rapid growth in infections, hospitalisation increases are slower at circa 10% on the seven-day basis.

But even that rate of increase is not trivial for an NHS struggling to cope with a massive backlog of operations, treatment and care. Javid is in at the deep end.

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