Matt Hancock to make statement on future of health and care amid Covid pandemic

MATT Hancock will make a statement on the future of health and care amid the Covid pandemic this morning.

The Health Secretary is to give a ministerial statement at around 11am.

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Mr Hancock is expected to to announce a slew of changes to the operation of the NHS – as he plots to "sweep away" legal red tape.

It comes following reports that officials are planning to take more control of the service in the biggest health reform for a decade.

According to a leaked report published in The Times, ministers will have more powers to block the closure of hospitals and overrule bosses.

Under the changes, Government officials could decide to put fluoride in water, impose health warnings on sausages and order the NHS to prevent obesity, it's claimed.

The reforms would reverse controversial changes brought in by David Cameron's coalition government in 2012.

They would also slim down the role of private providers in the health service.

As part of the scheme, a health secretary would be responsible for setting priorities for the NHS.

This morning, Mr Hancock appeared on Good Morning Britain, where he said he wants to "sweep away the legal barriers" causing delays and problems for the NHS.

"I want these changes to impact positively on people working so hard right now," he said.

"I understand why people say 'it's not the right moment'.

"There are 26,000 people in hospital with Covid, the health service still working incredibly hard and, of course, delivering the vaccine."

However, he said he "emphatically" believes the change will be positive.

"This is designed to help people on frontline deliver services better," he said.

Labour has hit out at the plans.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the government need to "explain how a structural reorganisation in the midst of the biggest crisis the NHS has faced" would benefit patients.

He added: "It's an admission that the David Cameron reforms from 10 years ago were an expensive counterproductive distraction.

"The corona pandemic has shown that health and care services can work together without structural reform."

The legislation would mark a change from decades of reforms aimed at encouraging competition within the NHS.

If the proposals go ahead, local councils and health providers would have to work together when providing care under a network of "integrated care systems".

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "From tackling bureaucracy to driving forward the integration of health and care services, we are rightly considering where changes need to be made to help us build back better."

Mr Hancock will speak hours after Boris Johnson addressed the nation from No10.

The PM urged those who've been contacted about a Covid jab but have not yet had it to ensure they get vaccinated as soon as possible.

And he admitted the country faces "a long and hard road back to normality" – but said vaccinations are the way back to normality.

He has previously said he will reveal a roadmap out of lockdown on 22 February.

Ministers are on track to get all the top four cohorts of vulnerable Brits a vaccine appointment by Valentine's Day.

Elsewhere, hopes for British holidays were dashed yesterday by the Transport Secretary.

Grant Shapps couldn't say whether people would be able to take a break in the summer.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: "The truth is we just don’t know how the virus will respond to both to the vaccines, and of course how people will respond.

"I’m afraid I can’t give you a definitive, will there or will there not be the opportunity to take holidays this next year, either at home or abroad."

But the situation descended into farce after Mr Hancock revealed he's already booked a summer break in Cornwall.

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