NHS workers should be legally forced to get Covid jabbed before the winter to avoid a crisis, former health secretary Matt Hancock said.

Mr Hancock warned ministers against delaying mandatory vaccines for nurses and doctors to safeguard vulnerable patients and avoid staff shortages.

It comes as the Government is under increasing pressure to change the law within weeks to require Covid jabs for England’s 1.45million NHS staff.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock said: "Having looked at all the evidence, I am convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS — and get it in place as fast as possible.”

The former Health Secretary was in office when mandatory vaccines for care workers were announced.

He said: "To me, the logic is crystal clear.

"Medicine is founded on science — and the science of the Covid vaccine is comprehensively proven. 

"There are some people who say this isn't the way we do things in Britain. But we already mandate vaccination against Hepatitis B for doctors. The British historic precedents for compulsory vaccination go back to the 1850s."

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Mr Hancock noted that nine in 10 NHS workers have been double vaccinated – but he argued the figure was not high enough and unvaccinated staff had a "moral duty" to roll up their arm.

This is one of the few times he has made a public intervention after quitting as health secretary in June, for breaking social distancing rules after being caught having an affair. 

Ministers are widely expected to introduce the requirement in spring next year.

But Mr Hancock said this should be brought in as soon as possible to safeguard vulnerable patients with diseases that make catching Covid potentially lethal. 

As we prepare to face a difficult winter, let's use all the tools that we have to save lives

He said: "So, as we prepare to face a difficult winter, let's use all the tools that we have to save lives."

The Government said a further 62 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 141,805.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 166,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 30,305 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

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