21/09/2016 19:38 BST | Updated 22/09/2017 06:12 BST

Lord Lansley Attacks BMA Over Stance On Junior Doctors' Dispute

Former health secretary Lord Lansley has launched an attack on the British Medical Association (BMA) over the junior doctors' dispute, comparing the body to "real trade unionists".

Lord Lansley said the forthcoming strikes planned by trainee medics were "unethical" as he condemned personal attacks on current Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.

But he did suggest that Mr Hunt should have left negotiations to NHS England and NHS Employers.

He said that the BMA were pursuing a "self-interested campaign".

Speaking as a guest speaker at the NHS Providers annual lecture, Lord Lansley said: "The junior doctors dispute... it is in my view unethical to potentially inflict harm to patients in pursuit of what is a self-interested campaign.

"The BMA's actions are nakedly political, as indeed they often were back in 2011.

"As a trade union, I find them in stark contrast to my experience of negotiating with real trade unionists like Dave Prentis (the general secretary of the union Unison) which I did over the NHS pensions.

"Real trade unionists like Dave Pentis, they set out to identify what the best available deal for their members and when they arrived at that deal they made the deal, they didn't carry on."

He added: "As an organisation, the BMA should have carried their members with them in doing the deal."

He continued: "Jeremy has a right and responsibility to speak out on behalf of the public, but the reforms (through the Health and Social Care Act) imply this is actually the independent responsibility of the NHS.

"Bruce Keogh (NHS England medical director) was pursuing a seven-day service in a clinically-led basis and NHS England and NHS Employers should have been the parties doing the negotiations.

"I think one thing you shouldn't do is give a chance to the BMA to make the NHS their political football any more than politicians should be kicking it around themselves."

Lord Lansley said that people often ask him whether or not he was glad that he wasn't in post now.

He added: "What they mean by that is that I should be glad that I am not being subjected to the kind of toxic attacks that are being made on Jeremy for pushing forward with plans for a seven-day service.

"I rather deplore the personal character of those attacks."

"I do rather regret many of those personal attacks on Jeremy, but I know that he sees it as a central part of his objective to focus on how patients can be safer in the NHS."

Trainee medics are planning to stage week-long walkouts in October, November and December over a new contract.

Junior doctors will withdraw from labour, including emergency care, for five days between the hours of 8am and 5pm for five days each month.

The first wave of strikes was supposed to start on September 12.

But the union called off the first round of industrial action amid safety concerns.

The BMA has said strikes scheduled for October 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11, November 14 to 18 and December 5 to 9, will go ahead.

The Government and BMA remain at loggerheads over the new contract for junior doctors, which the Department of Health says will help to provide a seven-day NHS.

Six strikes have already taken place across England during the lengthy dispute, causing disruption to hundreds of thousands of patients who have had appointments and operations cancelled.

In May, it looked as though a breakthrough had been reached in the dispute after both sides agreed to a new deal.

Then in July, the Government announced that it would impose a new contract after junior doctors and medical students voted to reject the deal brokered between health leaders and the BMA.

The BMA has said it will call off further strikes if the Government agrees to lift the imposition.