UK

Sky News' Reporter Darren McCaffrey 'Gagged' By NHS Chief's Aide During Junior Doctors Strike Interview

12/01/2016 13:37 GMT | Updated 13/01/2016 15:59 GMT

A journalist has shut down an attempt to censor his questions during an interview with a government spokesperson on the NHS junior doctors’ strike

Sky News' Darren McCaffrey was reporting for all the main broadcasters when he responded to an attempt to curtail the questioning of Professor Norman Williams, a respected clinician put up to defend the government.

McCaffrey is interrupted and accused of straying from previously agreed questioning by an aide during the interview, above. Williams appeared in the absence of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

norman williams

Prof Norman Williams is a respected clinician chosen to represent the government

The clip, filmed on Monday evening and pooled between the main broadcasters, begins with McCaffrey asking Professor Williams: “Where is Jeremy Hunt tonight?”

To which Williams responds: “He’s in the department, at his desk, working hard.”

The political correspondent then asks: “And do you feel it’s good that doctors on the eve of a strike and indeed the people that use the NHS aren’t able to hear from the Secretary of State?”

Prompting one aide to rapidly intervene, saying: “Hang on a second we’re not doing this nonsense like…”

The aide continued: “We agreed a series of questions…”

McCaffrey quickly responded: “I didn’t agree to any question, but anyway, we’re here in an interview, and you’re the person the Department of Health put up, in a democracy, we’re allowed to ask questions…”

jeremy hunt

Hunted: the Health Secretary has thus far evaded the media

Norman Smith, the BBC's deputy political editor, referenced McCaffrey's interview during his report on the strike on Tuesday, mentioning the difficulty reporters have had in seeking comment from the health secretary.

The absence of Hunt has prompted an online search and fervent criticism of his treatment of the strike, the first among medics for four decades.

Hunt subsequently agreed to give one broadcast interview to the BBC Radio 4's World at One on Tuesday. He told the programme: "I would like to thank everyone in the NHS who’s worked really hard today to keep patients safe.

"Nearly 40% of junior doctors have gone to work today but alongside consultants, nursing staff, other staff – they have worked really, really hard to make sure that patients don’t come to harm and I want to thank them for that."

He went on to accuse striking doctors of “putting patients at risk”. He said: "We have tried really hard to make the case for a seven-day NHS; we’ve been arguing this with the BMA now for over three years.

"And in the end this was in our manifesto, it was endorsed by the British people and I think every doctor knows that it’s not acceptable to have mortality rates at the weekend that are 11% to 15% higher, and we want the NHS to offer the safest and best care in the world and we all have that in common.

"So the right thing to do is to talk, not do what we’re seeing today which is putting patients at risk."

Thousands of doctors took to picket lines across the country in their fight for fairer terms and conditions as part of revisions to their employment contracts.

Earlier, dozens of medics were recalled to work by an NHS hospital in West Bromwich amid a "level 4 alert".

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