Jeremy Hunt Appears To Endorse Claim Of 'Militants' Versus 'Moderates' In Junior Doctors Row

11/11/2015 15:40 | Updated 11 November 2015

Jeremy Hunt has been accused of denigrating the medical profession after appearing to endorse the belief that there are "militant" doctors working against the interests of "moderates".

The divisive language emerged from an article written by a columnist for The Times (£) which the health secretary tweeted out to his 77,000 followers on Wednesday.

Rather then re-tweet the article, Hunt chose to type out its controversial headline and link to it separately.

Owen Jones responded to Hunt by comparing politicians' attempts to reform the NHS as presenting more "militancy" than doctors attempting to save lives.

Doctors themselves have moved to criticise the divisive choice of phrase - and its effect on future negotiation.

Dr Yassir Iqbal, a doctor in cardiothoracic surgery at University Hospitals of North Midlands, told HuffPost UK: "The health secretary believes doctors who are concerned about the potential new employment contract as "militants".

"How can the BMA sit down at the negotiating table when the health secretary is on a different wavelength?"

And other doctors have taken to Twitter to criticise Hunt.

Hunt remains under pressure to resolve an ongoing dispute regarding junior doctors' contracts, with medics continuing to protest the proposed change to working hours and pay and conditions.

In order to try and avoid an unprecedented strike amongst medics, the health secretary yesterday offered junior doctors what he said was an 11% pay rise last week.

This was criticised almost immediately as a "misdirection" by MPs.

Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, told The Huffington Post: "Instead of provoking a fight with junior doctors, Jeremy Hunt should be getting back around the negotiating table and coming to an agreement.

"The suggestion that the very people keeping our NHS going are militant is offensive and ridiculous.

"I haven’t met a single junior doctor who wants to take industrial action, but they feel like they’ve been forced into a corner. If there is industrial action causing inconvenience to patients, then the only person responsible will be Jeremy Hunt."

The body which represents doctors in negotiations, the British Medical Association, said: “Junior doctors feel like they have been left with no option to resist the imposition of a contract that is bad for patients, junior doctors and the NHS.

"The BMA has said repeatedly that it wants to reach a negotiated agreement with the government – that remains our goal. We have been consistent and clear about what is needed to get back around the negotiating table, but this has so far fallen on deaf ears.

"Perhaps this should be the government’s focus rather than attacking junior doctors who believe these proposals would be bad for patient care and the NHS.”

6 Things To Know About Junior Doctor's Contract Changes

  • 1 Who are junior doctors?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Junior doctors are those doctors who have graduated from medical school but who are yet to qualify as either a consultant or general practitioner.

    Doctors are required to undertake five years of medical training and to graduate from accredited schools before entering what's known as a foundation period.

    They are then required to work as juniors after the foundation period before ascending to consultant or GP status. This means many doctors do not fully qualify until well into their 30s.
  • 2 Why are their contracts changing?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Demands upon the NHS are increasing, and at the same time, the government wants to move towards a seven-day, out-of-hours health service.

    Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says planned contract changes will make healthcare more flexible, and more able to adapt to changing levels of demand.

    He has denied the charge that the contracts are specifically designed to lower the wage bill of doctors who'll be forced to work 'out of hours' for no extra pay.
  • 3 Why are people unhappy?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Junior doctors are unhappy at the proposed contract's potential effect on safe working hours.

    They say that introducing new shift patterns and broadening normal working days to include hours up to 10pm may have the effect of increasing tiredness amongst medics.

    The new contracts may impinge on doctors' work-life balance, reduce time spent with their families, and may increase work-related stress. These may affect patient care, some argue.

    Dr Shebby Kamalvand wrote of the hypocrisy of the proposals - the implication that doctors are worth less than they are paid now, but are required to work more flexibly to cope with increased demand.

    The proposals may also make things less fair for those working less than full time and taking parental leave.

    But most of all, the British Medical Association believes the threat of imposition to be entirely unacceptable -- a stumbling block so large it has halted negotiations entirely.
  • 4 What do they want?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    According to the British Medical Association, which represents junior doctors in negotiations, they want: "The BMA wants the following concrete assurances in writing from the Government before we can agree to re-enter negotiations:

    - Proper recognition of unsocial hours as premium time - No disadvantage for those working unsocial hours compared to current system - No disadvantage for those working less than full time and taking parental leave compared to the current system - Pay for all work done - Proper hours safeguards protecting patients and their doctors

    The contract proposed by the Government rides roughshod over the best interests of doctors, of patients and of the NHS as a whole. Junior doctors have made it clear that they are not prepared to accept a contract that is unfair and unsafe."
  • 5 Will they get it?
    Stuart Gleave via Getty Images
    Negotiations are currently at an impasse, with both NHS Employers, which acts on behalf of government, and representatives of junior doctors refusing to budge on the threat of imposition.

    A staged introduction of the new changes could take effect whereby those joining the profession are subject to the new conditions.

    However, this may do little to tackle the dire recruitment and retention of junior doctors after the foundation period.

    Jeremy Hunt is likely to move forward in a way which brings junior doctors back around the negotiating table.
  • 6 And what if they don't?
    But there are signs of what will happen should Mr Hunt refuse to yield to doctors' demands.

    Members of his own party have highlighted cases of doctors emigrating from the UK to work as doctors elsewhere. Dr Sarah Wollaston, now a Tory MP and chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, says that her own daughter and eight of her doctor friends have left the UK for Australia.

    And it doesn't look like they'll be alone in leaving Britain. The General Medical Council has received more applications for a Certificate of Currently Professional Status so far this year as it did in the whole of 2014. The Certificate is needed if doctors wish to practice medicine abroad.

    In 2014, the GMC issued 4925 certificates. So far this year it has issued 7468, its latest figures reveal.

Related on HuffPost:

Suggest a correction