Jeremy Hunt squirms as Andrew Marr reads letters from junior doctors

'These are the voices of doctors right now. That’s what they feel'

Adam Withnall
Sunday 07 February 2016 11:35 GMT
Jeremy Hunt squirms as Andrew Marr reads letters from junior doctors

Jeremy Hunt was made to sit and listen live on TV to the complaints of junior doctors who said they were “despairing and close to quitting medicine” – and that it was all his fault.

The Health Secretary was scheduled to speak on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to launch a new initiative for a “paperless” NHS, but the interview was dominated by the still-raging row over the junior doctors’ contract.

Mr Hunt was doing a decent job, it seemed, insisting that the issue was largely one of “misinformation” spread by the British Medical Association (BMA) union.

He asserted that doctors were set to get more money and would actually be working fewer hours, despite the fact that they will be asked to cover more weekend shifts while the premium they are paid for working those shifts is reduced.

But he appeared to squirm in his seat when presenter Andrew Marr changed tack, opting instead to read out some of the letters the programme has received from junior doctors around the country.

He said: “Rachel Clarke is a doctor in Oxford, she says: ‘Mr Hunt has made me feel demoralised, insulted and cheap. He implies we are the problem – well I give my life to the NHS.

‘It’s so grim on the frontline now, I sometimes work 14 or 15 hours straight without a second even to eat. I have never felt so despairing or so close to quitting medicine.’

“Andy King, a registrar from Oxford, says: ‘With so many patients to see I am absolutely petrified, I’m too exhausted to look after them safely.

‘If we are stretched even more thinly over 7 days I’m certain patients are going to die.’

“This is what they are saying. One final one, Jane Jenyon from Hereford says: ‘The profession is at absolute breaking point. I see doctors in tears because they are so despairing about what the future holds.

‘Jeremy Hunt has done this. He is driving away a whole generation of doctors.’

“Those are the voices of doctors right now. That’s what they feel.”

Mr Hunt was forced to accept that “we need to do something to improve the morale of junior doctors”, but he said the blame for that did not fall to him.

Clearly moved, he said: “This is incredibly disappointing… that [sic] the totally irresponsible way the BMA has behaved, refusing to sit down and talk about how we can improve patient care and spreading misinformation…”

Junior doctors are set to strike on 10 February after talks between medics and managers broke down last week, the BMA said. Doctors overwhelmingly voted to take action late last year by 98 per cent on a turnout of over 70 per cent.

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