Jeremy Hunt must ditch plans to impose a new contract on junior doctors which they say amounts to a pay cut of up to 30%, Labour's new shadow health secretary has said.
Writing for The Huffington Post UK, Heidi Alexander says the government's plan, which also involves reducing overtime pay for more than 53,000 junior doctors, "makes a mockery of the Conservative's somewhat Orwellian claim to be the party of workers".
"Ensuring that our health service is there for everyone, whenever they might need it - be that a weekday or a weekend - is something that everyone would support," she says.
"But if we want the NHS to be sustainable for years to come, and if we are serious about moving towards a seven-day service, we must make sure the staff that will be delivering that service are supported and feel valued. Junior doctors are the best of British. They have spent years studying, training, often accumulating huge personal debt, because they want to make a difference and help those in need."
She adds: "I don't see how it can possibly be justifiable to ask hard-working NHS staff to do more and get paid less. We have a duty to care for those who care for us. It's not just about doing right for NHS staff - improving morale in the NHS is essential if we are to improve patient care and patient experience."
"Jeremy Hunt needs to withdraw the threat of contract imposition, and re-engage in a dialogue with the BMA. He must give an assurance to the BMA that talks will be meaningful, that he is prepared to compromise and that he will put forward a better deal that won't put patients at risk. Now is not the time for high-handed demands which are neither fair nor safe."
Junior doctors affected by the changes are planning street protest and there is also the threat of strikes.