The Health Secretary has denied practicing political “spin” around the looming junior doctors’ strike.
Jeremy Hunt was accused of distorting the truth of negotiations by junior doctor campaigners in an appearance on ITV1’s Good Morning Britain programme.
“I think that kind of language is not very helpful,” he replied.
Mr Hunt claims that negotiations over a new medics’ contract are nearly complete and that the British Medical Association and ministers nearly agree.
The BMA’s Dr Mark Porter however said that there was still a way to go before the strike could be called off.
“The Government is, understandably, putting round the fact that agreement is almost there,” Dr Porter told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It's almost there in their mind but not in the minds of junior doctors.
“An 11 per cent pay increase doesn't compensate when you take away a 31 per cent average payment for working the unsocial hours. Anybody can do the maths on that.”
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt however claimed that the BMA agreed that pay was being protected – despite Dr Porter’s earlier comments.
“We think that broadly they do accept that we are protecting pay,” Mr Hunt told the same radio programme.
“No government or health secretary could possibly want to cut doctors’ pay. We’ve offered an absolute pay protection and we’ve shown the workings and we’ve gone through it with the BMA.
Meet the patients and doctors of GOSH
Meet the patients and doctors of GOSH
1/9 Elliott Livingstone
Two-year-old Elliott is a “cheeky” little boy who has a Thomas the Tank Engine sticker on his Berlin heart machine, which has kept him alive since his own heart failed eight months ago. Elliott has two tubes pumping blood around his tiny body. It keeps him alive but the machine has left him confined to the wards of Great Ormond Street Hospital until a new heart is found
2/9 Melissa Strickland
As the ward sister on Koala Ward, Melissa Strickland leads a nursing team with the challenging job of looking after children with craniofacial and neurological conditions. “You have to have all the skills and knowledge to do this job but personally for me you cannot do it unless you have passion but also compassion,” she said. “You don’t get used to the sad side of things but you do learn to manage it.”
3/9 Amy Willis
Amy Willis carries a discreet black medical bag everywhere she goes. It contains the cutting-edge HeartWare device that is keeping her alive. A smaller, more advanced version of the Berlin artificial heart, it was fitted in April after she was emergency airlifted to GOSH from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. The device means that 14-year-old Amy can be home in Flintshire this Christmas while remaining on the heart transplant waiting list. She is doing well but 15 per cent of patients with a HeartWare device or Berlin heart die while waiting for a new heart, so money raised by the appeal will also go to help researchers identify ways to keep children alive while they await transplant
4/9 Myra Bluebond-Langner
Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner represents the vital work of the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research and care for children with life-limiting illnesses. The LDC is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days. Money raised from The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal will go to fund the team’s work to manage pain, and also fund vital research into palliative care in children across the whole of the UK. Professor Bluebond-Langner, who heads the research, said: “Paediatric palliative care is a relatively new field where practice has outstripped research. We look to change that.”
5/9 Finella Craig
Together with with Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner, Dr Finella Craig represents the vital work of the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research and care for children with life-limiting illnesses. The LDC is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days. “One of the worst experiences for a family is to witness their child in pain and discomfort, and for them to feel totally powerless to do anything about it,” said Dr Craig, a consultant in paediatric palliative medicine at GOSH since 2002. Money raised from The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal will go to fund the team’s work to manage pain, and also fund vital research into palliative care in children across the whole of the UK.
6/9 Rowan Pethard
Like most little boys, Rowan Pethard loves playing football. At the start of 2015 the seven-year-old Spurs fan baffled his doctors in Hemel Hempstead with a string of coughs, colds, tummy bugs, aches, pains and rashes. It wasn’t until quite late on that doctors discovered he had leukaemia. He spent two days in intensive care while he had emergency chemo. He has two years of follow-up treatment ahead. “He’s amazing, a little superhero,” his mum said. “It makes it easier for his father and I and his brother to cope.”
7/9 Martin Elliott
Paediatric heart and lung surgeon Martin Elliott, 64, is one of the longest serving doctors at GOSH, leading groundbreaking research and treating thousands of patients over the past 30 years. His work has bridged the gap between surgery and research with skills ranging from heart-bypass surgery to correcting congenital lung disorders.
8/9 Ralph Frost
For Ralph the hardest thing about having to live at GOSH while he waits for a new kidney isn’t missing his toys. He has plenty of those and can terrorise the nurses by pushing his little red motorbike down the corridors of Eagle Ward. The hardest thing for the six-year-old is battling not to cry out during his nightly dialysis sessions. “It really hurts,” he said. “But the other kids are sleeping and I don’t want to wake them up.” Ralph suffers from nephrotic syndrome and is currently waiting for a kidney from his father, Nick. He’s called the kidney “Chase” and his parents, who have been trained to operate his dialysis machine, hope to be home by Christmas
9/9 Lynsey Steele
The strongest praise for Lynsey Steele, 33, comes from the parents of the children she helps. “The children here wouldn’t get by without Lynsey,” said Ralph’s mother Amie Frost. “If she wasn’t here then we’d have cracked up.” Lynsey’s role, which is funded by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and will be supported by The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal, is to help children play and relax, but also to have the difficult conversations explaining their treatment
“Let’s be clear there isn’t a big difference between what doctors want and what we want and we should sit down and work out a solution.”
Doctors will go on strike next Tuesday if a last-minute agreement is not found.
The 24-hour strike on 12 January will be followed up by 48-hour industrial action starting on 26 January as well as another day on 10 February, the British Medical Association has announced.
All three of the strikes will start at 8am. During the first two junior scheduled actions doctors will provide only emergency care. The final scheduled strike will involve a full withdrawal of labour, the BMA says.
Junior doctors voted by a huge majority to go on strike in a ballot conducted in November. 98 per cent of doctors balloted voted to strike on a turnout of 76 per cent. 99.4 per cent of doctors said they would take part in action short of a strike.
The strike centres around a contract dispute dispute in which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is attempting to redefine what constitutes anti-social hours for doctors.
Doctors have warned that the changes would put patients’ safety and risk by incentivising unsafe working patterns.
The Government has also admitted that junior doctors who work the very longest hours will face a pay cut. The overall change is planned to be cost-neutral.