Health Sec warns some NHS appointments will be dropped to meet tough new booster target

13 December 2021, 09:06 | Updated: 13 December 2021, 13:41

By Sophie Barnett

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned some planned NHS appointments will be delayed in the government's drive to offer every adult in England a Covid booster vaccine by the end of the year.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast Mr Javid said it is a "race between the virus and the vaccine" and almost a million people will need to be jabbed every day in order to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and avoid the need for further restrictions.

He told LBC that already in London the Omicron variant has gone "from nothing to around 40% of infection", as he stressed the need for everyone to come forward for their vaccine.

"Two doses of the vaccine are not enough," he told Nick, explaining that three doses give "excellent protection" against Omicron.

He warned the NHS may need to postpone planned surgeries and non-urgent appointments in order to free up resources for the booster rollout, and said civil servants, military personnel and volunteers would be drafted in to help.

Read more: Work from home guidance reintroduced in England amid spiralling Omicron cases

Read more: 'No guarantees': Health Sec refuses to rule out school closures in fight against Omicron

Downing Street later said cancer treatment would not be "degraded" due to the focus on the booster vaccine rollout.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We're not talking about cancer appointments, and that's an important point to make.

"I'm talking about non-urgent services and obviously clinicians will use their judgment, as they have done throughout, to prioritise care to those that need it and you would not expect someone who has had cancer and is in need of urgent treatment to see their care degraded.

"But the Prime Minister has been upfront that the public can expect a level of disruption to non-urgent care whilst we prioritise getting the boosters, that's because if we do not do this the damage to all aspects of care - including on urgent care - will be far greater."

Earlier, Mr Javid admitted the effort would be "huge", and said we don't yet have all the vaccinators and volunteers needed in order to meet the target.

He said they are bringing in thousands of people to help achieve the government's goal.

He also reiterated the Prime Minister's announcement on Sunday that they will be forced to "re-prfioritize" within the NHS, asking GPs to "focus their work" only on urgent cases and to do more with vaccinations.

"We are going to have to cancel some non-urgent appointments in the NHS and postpone them until early next year," Mr Javid explained.

He said this is necessary so teams can "focus their efforts" on what has become "absolutely crucial".

Read more: PM opens booster jabs to all adults in England as he warns 'Omicron tidal wave is coming'

From Monday, jabs are being rolled out to all those over the age of 18 following concerns a "tidal wave" of Omicron cases is coming.

By the end of the year, all adults can have the chance to get boosted - ahead of the previous goal to hit that target by the end of January.

This makes up the "Omicron Emergency Boost" plan, which Mr Johnson said was a "national mission unlike anything we have seen before in the vaccination programme".