IT is the "professional duty" of NHS staff at Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital to be vaccinated against Covid, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said during a visit to the hospital today (Thursday, February 17).

Mr Javid was speaking after he toured Musgrove's £4.4million eye care unit as part of an initiative to take his reform agenda on the road.

He said: "Fortunately, it's very small numbers of NHS staff that are unvaccinated - it's estimated to be five per cent.

"It's the right thing to do if you work with the NHS with vulnerable people. It's your professional duty to get vaccinated."

Mr Javid yesterday criticised world number one tennis star Novak Djokovic, saying he should "reflect on his decision" not to get a Covid jab as the vaccine was the only reason he has been able to return to playing and "earn millions" again.

"It's not being critical (telling NHS staff they should be jabbed)," the Health Secretary told the County Gazette.

"It's about helping people to take a positive decision to get vaccinated. giving more information, if they like to speak to vaccination experts, that should be available to them.

"When it was Mr Djokovic, the guy's popularity and celebrity status mean his views have a impact on people. That's a big difference."

Quizzed on Boris Johnson's alleged breach of the Covid rules with several parties said to have been held at 10 Downing Street during the pandemic restrictions, Mr Javid said: "The Prime Minister has apologised.

"He has come to Parliament, made a statement, taken hours of questions from MPs and there's an investigation going on by the authorities.

"It wold be inappropriate to say any more."

Mr Javid said waiting lists in Musgrove and hospitals across the country had soared during the pandemic as the NHS "rightly focused on Covid patients".

"Sadly, that meant waiting lists have gone up and also people have stayed away from the NHS." he added.

He said record numbers of "highly skilled" doctors and nurses have been recruited to the NHS in the last year, with an extra 10,000 nurses and 5,000 doctors.

Mr Javid's 'road to recovery' tour of England this week is focusing on the Covid-19 recovery, NHS and social care reform, tackling disparities and levelling up the health of the nation.

He said: "As we learn to live with Covid, my mission is clear.

"We must tackle the backlog of people waiting for treatment, bring NHS and social care services closer together and deal with the stark inequalities and level up the health of the nation.

"Nurses, doctors, GPs, vaccinators, porters and so many others have put everything on the line to care for patients and families throughout this pandemic, and that’s why I wanted to thank them personally."

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow was also at Musgrove during Mr Javid's visit.

She said: "I was really thrilled that we got the Secretary of State here because I have discussed many times the transformation we're having here at Musgrove Park Hospital."

She added that she had helped secure several multi-million pound developments at Musgrove.

"It was pleasing to show him the new eye centre," added Ms Pow.

"It's been a remarkable turnaround in just nine months."