Jeremy Hunt Accused Of 'Pouring Oil On A Blazing Fire' Over Junior Doctors Strike

'He can barely show his face in a hospital because he ends up being chased down the road'
PA/PA Wire

Jeremy Hunt has appealed directly to junior doctors not to take strike action that will see them stop offering emergency care for the first time ever.

Hospitals across England are finalising plans for dealing with the first all-out strike by junior doctors in the history of the NHS. It will run from 8am to 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) and Hunt are fighting over a threat from Hunt to impose a new contract on junior doctors that the government says is needed to bring in a seven-day NHS as promised before the election.

Speaking in the Commons today, the health secretary said "no trade union has a right to veto a manifesto promise voted for by the British people".

"I wish to appeal directly to all junior doctors not to withdraw emergency cover which creates particular risks," he said.

However the BMA objects to the imposition of a new contract that includes a cuts the pay offered to doctors at weekends.

And junior doctors have argued there is no risk as more senior colleagues will step into fill the gaps while they are on strike,

This morning a junior doctor resigned live on TV claiming he felt "backed into a corner" by the government.

The government has said the changes are needed to reduce the mortality rate in hospitals at weekends.

But shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said Hunt had failed to produce a "shred of evidence" to show the new contract would achieve that goal.

"How can it be safe to impose a contract when no one knows what the impact will be on recruitment and retention?" she asked. "How can it be safe to impose a contact which risks destroying the morale of doctors?"

"Even if just 1% of junior doctors decide enough is enough and leave the NHS, those are people we can ill afford to do without."

On Saturday, a coalition of MPs including Alexander urged Hunt to test the new work contract in a small number of trusts rather than impose it across England without the support of the BMA.

However, the health secretary insisted that the government was already planning to roll out the contract slowly and dismissed the proposal as Labour "opportunism".

Alexander accused Hunt of "pouring oil onto a blazing fire" by refusing to compromise.

She added: "He can barely show his face in a hospital because he ends up being chased down the road."

Senior medical leaders have urged David Cameron to step in "at the 11th hour" to break the stalemate.

More than a dozen presidents of royal colleges and faculties have written to the Prime Minister on Monday calling for him to end the dispute.

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