UK

BBC Question Time: The Times' Camilla Long Says Junior Doctors Are Only Striking Over Money

15/01/2016 13:25 GMT | Updated 15/01/2016 13:59 GMT

Times journalist and provoker of David Bowie fans everywhere, Camilla Long, has now bravely taken on another social media juggernaut, suggesting junior doctors are only striking because they are concerned about pay.

Sticking her head above the Question Time parapet last night, the film critic launched a blistering attack on the industrial action which is being led by the British Medical Association (BMA).

camilla long

Camilla Long

Long said: "To the person in the street, first of all, we don't know what these doctors are striking are striking about. To me it looks like you're striking about money.

"It looks like you're striking about pay."

Her comments were met with boos from the audience and Labour MP Cat Smith assured her that doctors had been very clear about what they were striking about.

The show had begun with Tory MP Nick Boles voicing his disapproval of the strikes.

He said: "The first thing to say is that of course they absolutely have the right to. I'm disappointed they have chosen to and I fear they have been misled by the BMA leadership."

This prompted an impassioned response from a junior doctor in the audience who said: "I'm a junior doctor and I would very much like to say I have not been misled by the BMA.

"My medical training gives me the opportunity to evaluate evidence and I have looked at the government's proposals and I have looked at what the BMA has said so categorically, 98% of the people who voted for the strike were not misled by the BMA."

Long responded by expressing her horror at the strike action as well as the relationship between the BMA and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

She said: "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."

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A strike went ahead on Tuesday despite last-minute attempts to avoid the action.

Negotiations centred on the Government's offer from early November, including an 11% rise in basic pay for junior doctors.

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.

Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay.

Under the Government's offer, junior doctors would receive time and a half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time and a third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.

Junior doctors would also receive on-call availability allowances, ranging from 2% to 6% of basic pay, as well as payment for work undertaken as a result of being on-call.

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Hunt said this morning that health officials are "busting a gut" to ensure A&E departments will function if junior doctors carry out next month's strike action, insisting the dispute over the controversial new contract can be resolved.

The health secretary said that despite efforts by officials and senior doctors he could not guarantee that all A&E units would be able to open if the February 10 strike went ahead.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are talking with the BMA today, we are all sitting around the table at Acas. I really hope we can make progress because we all want the same thing - every doctor wants high quality care every day of the week, and I think the BMA also wants that.

"So I think this is something which needs sorting out by sitting around the table and I think if we do it in the right spirit we can solve this."

Asked whether lives would be in danger on February 10, Mr Hunt said: "I can't give an absolute guarantee but we are busting a gut to make sure that every A&E department is able to function."

He added: "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."

The Health Secretary said he hoped to avoid unilaterally imposing the new contract on junior doctors, but insisted he had the right to fulfil the Tory manifesto commitment, the Press Association reported.