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Sajid Javid Says He Still Hasn't Read The Damning Report On Government's Covid Response

3 min read

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has admitted that he still hasn't read a damning report of the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic that was published by MPs on Tuesday.

Javid told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had seen the "top lines" of the report by the Health & Social Care Select Committee but had not had "the opportunity to study every word."

He said: "I don't think there's anything wrong with that, I'll look at it properly this weekend. I've discussed it with Jeremy Hunt, chair of the select committee."

The report concluded that decisions made by ministers early in the pandemic "rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced".

The committees' inquiry, led by senior Tory MP and former Health Secretary Hunt, said the failure by government to lock down sooner was a "serious early error," while discharging people from hospitals into care homes "led to many thousands of deaths".

Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden on Wednesday apologised for mistakes the government made during the pandemic, telling Sky News: "Of course I’m sorry, as the Prime Minister is sorry."

His apology came after Stephen Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, repeatedly failed to do so in media interviews on Tuesday.

Javid said it is "important" that work like the report is carried out by MPs but added "the most important work is going to be the public inquiry," which is expected to begin next spring.

The Cabinet minister was speaking after announcing a package of measures designed to increase the number of face-to-face GP appointments, which includes £250m to help increase capacity.

However, the government's plan to publish league tables of GPs and exclude those practices which don't provide what it deems to be an "appropriate" number of face-to-face appointments from the new funding has prompted a backlash from senior health figures.

Celebrity doctor and GP Rosemary Leonard accused Javid of "stirring up anti-GP sentiment" and said the number of doctors needed to increase capacity doesn't exist. 

In an interview with Sky News this morning Javid denied that the GP league tables were tantamount to naming and shaming doctors, insisting it is about "providing more data and more transparency".

"What this announcement is about is increasing capacity so that more patients can be seen in the way they want to and seen more promptly," the Health Secretary said.

But he confirmed that GP practices which apply for a share of the £250m funding must prove how they will use the extra money to provide more face-to-face appointments. 

The plans prompted an angry response from Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee, who said: “It’s truly frightening that we have a government so ignorant to the needs of such a core part of the NHS.”

He added: “It is also disappointing to see that there is no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments – we need a more intelligent conversation about the variety of appointments and care that are available to patients to meet their needs.”

Dr Julia Grace Patterson, chief executive of campaign group EveryDoctor, said GPs were now being blamed by ministers for a lack of face-to-face access having been instructed by the government to hold appointments over the phone.

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