'We don't have enough desks': Health Sec admits just 30% of staff are back in the office

15 September 2021, 10:23 | Updated: 15 September 2021, 12:14

By Sophie Barnett

Sajid Javid has been called out on LBC for "demanding" that doctors return to GP surgeries while just 30% of his staff are back in the office, which he has blamed on a "lack of desks".

The minister was quizzed by Nick Ferrari on LBC on the numbers of his Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) staff who are still not behind their desks, despite people being encouraged to return to their workplace.

"So they can work from home, Secretary of State, they can work from home but you’re demanding doctors go back to their places of work. Why?" Nick probed the Health Secretary.

Mr Javid replied: "No, we’re not demanding that at all.

"I want to see more doctors giving the offer of a face-to-face surgery consultation. And at the height of the pandemic it was understandable that doctors weren’t able to do that, so the offer was really around telephone consultations or other types of digital consultation, and that was understandable. But now as we return to normal people should have the option of seeing their GP if that’s what they want."

Read more: GPs 'insulted' by NHS push for more face-to-face appointments, doctor says

Read more: Don't deploy Covid 'Plan B': Pubs and shops warn it would 'devastate' recovery

Sajid Javid said only 30% his staff are behind their desks and working in the office.
Sajid Javid said only 30% his staff are behind their desks and working in the office. Picture: LBC

The former chancellor said that currently less than one in four members of his staff are back in the office.

He admitted: "The reason is that we don’t have, in my particular department since you asked me about it, we don’t have enough desks for people.

"The number of people in the department understandably expanded quite a bit over Covid and that’s right, we have a lot of new experts in the department and we just don’t have enough desks for them.

"So even right now if I said to all of them ‘can you all come into the office’ I think we’d have a real problem, we just don’t have the desks."

Read more: Face masks and lockdowns as 'last resort': Health Sec unveils 'winter plan' options

Read more: PM suggests workers have had enough 'days off' as government pushes return to work

Nick asked the minister if he is happy with just 30% of staff being behind their desks.

"I’d like to see it higher than that, but I don’t need to have desks for 100% of the people in my department," he explained.

He added that the decision about working from home should now be between the employer and employee.

"Some employers out there have found during Covid that actually they prefer to give the flexibility to their employees. So that’s a decision for the businesses themselves."

The Health Secretary was also quizzed on the possibility of vaccine passports returning if 'Plan B' is put into action.

He said they will "look out for new variants" of the disease and will monitor the situation closely, but doesn't expect them to be introduced in pubs.