Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, was speaking to Andrew Marr at the New Statesman’s Politics Live event today (28 June). When asked whether there had been “any moment when you’ve looked at this prime minister and had second thoughts, or doubts”, he replied: “I’ve certainly, I think, like many people, looked at some of the goings-on, and the parties you’ve mentioned, and I was really upset about those. There were reports and they had to be looked into, and I think that people across the country were upset by what they had heard… and they have every right to be upset.”
Javid, who has been chancellor and home secretary, is one of the most experienced members of the cabinet. His support is critical to the Prime Minister’s continued survival.
Marr also asked Javid about care for women in the health service, and why “the word itself has become problematical for some health services”, which at times have reduced use of the word or tried to find alternative descriptions in an attempt to include trans people. Javid replied: “It shouldn’t surprise you that as Secretary of State for Health I think someone’s biological sex is important in terms of giving them the healthcare that they need – if it’s women with ovarian cancer or cervical cancer, or if it’s men with prostate cancer, for example.
“And I think if you remove the word women, or men for that matter, when you’re trying to explain a health issue, then you’re not helping – you’re not helping those people you’re trying to help. So I think while the language we use should be compassionate and sensitive, we shouldn’t be shy to use any words at all.
“Recently we have had some instances where, with ovarian cancer, NHS Digital changed some of the descriptions that we had online – and I think that was wrong, and they’ve now changed it back as I’ve made my views clear. Your biological sex matters.”
He also touched on how much power he really has to effect change in the NHS. Health secretaries often find that they have few powerful available to them in the Department of Health because the NHS is highly federalised. As Marr put it to Javid, the NHS is no monolith, but more like a set of “semi-autonomous people’s republics, only loosely joined at the centre”. Javid replied that it’s not “quite that bad”.
Nevertheless, he had few concrete answers as to what could be done to alleviate the pressures on the health system that have left many people unable to get a doctor’s appointment or a dental appointment, as Marr pointed out. “The NHS budget is the biggest it’s ever been,” noted Javid, but he stressed the need for reforms –which he did not specify.
Conversation also strayed to the circumstances of Javid’s appointment as Health Secretary last summer. “It all began with that camera on the ceiling,” he joked, referring to Matthew Hancock’s fall from grace in June 2021 when he was caught kissing an aide, with whom he was in a relationship, in his office.