Sajid Javid says there have been 'unacceptable levels of care' as he sets out digital health plan

Sajid Javid has set out plans to digitise healthcare across the health service. Credit: PA

The health secretary has acknowledged there has been some "completely unacceptable levels of care" in the health service as he said that demands on the NHS are "huge".

Sajid Javid said the prioritisation of vaccinating vulnerable groups - such as care home residents - by GPs and Covid pressures during the pandemic has impacted the delivery of services in the long-term.

Despite a fall in waiting list numbers, this May was the busiest ever for emergency care, with 2.2 million A&E visits in England and almost 78,000 of the most urgent ambulance callouts.

"Sadly we have seen examples recently of patients who have been let down and we have had some completely unacceptable levels of care," Mr Javid told ITV News.

'There is a lot that we can do,' Sajid Javid admitted

Mr Javid went on to say that he has "nothing but support and praise" for all health professionals as they helped the country "in the most challenging time in living memory".

But there is a growing chance of strike action as delegates at the British Medical Association’s annual conference call for a pay rise of up to 30% over the next five years.

Doctors are pressing ministers to compensate for the real-terms cuts to their salaries over the last 14 years.

The government gave NHS staff a 3% pay rise last year, despite a public sector pay freeze, but health unions say this is nowhere near enough to keep pace with inflation which is running at a 40-year high of 9.1%.

Pressed on the issue, Mr Javid said there will be a "fair pay rise" this year but refused to be drawn on specific figures, deferring any decision until the independent pay review body makes it recommendations.

He said that ultimately any pay increase has to be "affordable", amid fears from ministers that significant salary increases could fuel already rampant inflation.

'Whatever we do ultimately it has to be affordable,' the health secretary said

In a wide ranging interview, the health secretary also outlined government plans to digitise healthcare.

He told ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan that he wants more effective care for patients to make the NHS more efficient and to improve outcomes for users.

"This plan covers everything from digital surgical robots to remote home monitoring, to use of artificial intelligence so a clinician is better informed about a patient's needs," he said.

Cancer care is one of the areas which is currently not good enough across the board, Mr Javid acknowledged.

The case of Deborah James, the podcaster who died from bowel cancer on Tuesday, was raised.

The 40-year-old was diagnosed with the disease in 2016 from a private doctor, having previously received three misdiagnoses from other doctors.

"I think that is an example of things that didn't work the way anyone would have wanted it, and there are many other examples," the health secretary said.

In order to improve patient experience, the NHS App - which is used by some 60% of the population - will soon be updated with features to help offer people in England more personalised care. Mr Javid said new features will include: being able to exchange messages with your GP, monitoring and managing hospital appointments and having access to fuller patient records.

By September 2024, patients will be able to complete hospital pre-assessment checks from home.

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