UK

BBC Question Time: MP Cat Smith Gives Passionate Rallying Cry In Support Of Junior Doctors

15/01/2016 10:51 GMT | Updated 15/01/2016 11:59 GMT

Labour MP Cat Smith unleashed a rallying call in support of junior doctors during a fiery episode of BBC's Question Time, in defence of strike action taken by the medics earlier this week.

The shadow minister for women and equalities, who was dubbed the only 'left-wing' speaker on the panel, leapt to support the BMA Trade Union and lashed out against its "radicalised" branding.

"Nobody wants to see our Junior doctors on strike, least of all those junior doctors. The junior doctors I know went into that profession to care for people," she said.

"I don’t know any junior doctor who went into it for the money, they went into it to support people at their hour of need. The BMA is not a radical trade union, this is a trade union that hasn’t been on strike for 40 years."

kat smith

Cat Smith MP appeared on the Question Time panel on Thursday

Discussions between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government will continue in an effort to break the stalemate in the dispute.

Two further strikes are planned - a 48-hour stoppage and the provision of emergency care only from 8am on Tuesday January 26, and a full withdrawal of labour from 8am to 5pm on Wednesday February 10.

Smith comments won support from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who quoted her in a series of tweets during the programme on Thursday evening.

While columnist Owen Jones used emojis to sum up his support for her performance on the show:

Smith continued her support for junior doctors, taking aim at the Conservatives.

"This is a strike that has been pushed by Jeremy Hunt, the Tory health secretary, who is refusing to get back around the negotiating table and speak to the junior doctors who frankly are doing this because they want their patents to be safe.

"They don’t want to be working longer hours, we don’t want to go back to those long old days of the 1990’s," she hit out.

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Smith's opinion divided the rest of the panel, which had been branded by some viewers as the most 'right-wing' panel ever, before the show had even begun.

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The Question Time panel Nick Boles MP, Cat Smith MP, Patrick O'Flynn MEP, Camilla Long and Kelvin MacKenzie

Times columinst Camilla Long, hit back at Smith's comments: "I would have to say that I am completely horrified that junior doctors are prepared to strike. Doctors took an oath, an hippocratic oath that they would not do anything to bring harm to their patients and I think they have totally abandoned their duty of care by doing so.

"I find it very, very difficult to get past this point, I don't understand how as a doctor you would be perfectly happy to leave your patients and even go up to the point where emergency services are potentially going to be affected by this. I think it's a disgrace how both Jeremy Hunt and junior doctors have allowed this to become a political football. Nowhere else in the world does healthcare become politicised in this way," she said.

Presenter David Dimbleby interjected: "When [Long] says it's dangerous, even in those circumstances is it still wrong to strike?"

"Yes I think it's wrong to strike because when you strike you are definitely putting your patients at risk," Long retorted.

Hunt said today that said NHS officials are "busting a gut" to ensure A&E departments remain open if junior doctors walk out on strike next month.

The health secretary said he would still consider imposing the new contract on junior doctors as a "last resort" although would rather come to an agreement.

"I cannot give an absolute guarantee but we are busting a gut to make sure every A&E department is able to function. We are going through hospital by hospital, we are doing detailed work to see whether we can fill the shifts that are not going to be filled by junior doctors and obviously our absolute priority is to keep patients safe," he said.

Asked if he would force doctors to accept the new contract which is at the heart of the dispute, Hunt said: "Of course legally we can do that, but I would rather agree this contract because I think it's something we should all agree – that we can have this promise to NHS patients that they can be confident of the same high-quality care every day of the week...

"We have said that if we can't solve this problem we have to deliver our manifesto commitment, and as a last resort we would move to the new contract. But we really hope that doesn't happen."

Junior doctors staged a 24-hour walkout on Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of around 4,000 operations and thousands of appointments.

The disagreement centres on changes to medics' pay and working conditions and the basis for the current round of negotiations is the Government's offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay.

But this is offset by plans to cut the number of hours on a weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay for unsocial hours.