Theresa May accuses junior doctors of 'playing politics' over contract strike

Junior doctors are set to walk out for five days over the imposition of a new contract

Jon Stone
Thursday 01 September 2016 16:43
Theresa May accuses junior doctors of 'playing politics'

Theresa May has accused junior doctors of “playing politics” in the dispute over the forced imposition of a new contract on them.

Junior doctors say the new contract, which is being imposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will harm patient safety and exacerbate a staffing crisis in the NHS.

The Government says the new deal, which doctors rejected in a ballot, will help deliver a manifesto commitment to improved care on weekends.

The Health Secretary on Thursday morning blamed doctors for patients left in “pain” during the strike, which will take place from 8.00am to 5.00pm every day from 12 to 16 September. More dates are expected to follow.

The Prime Minister at lunchtime backed Mr Hunt’s imposition, saying he was an “excellent health secretary”.

“The Government is putting patients first, the BMA should be putting patients first - not playing politics,” she said.

The PM added that the deal was “safe for patients”, adding that the NHS had “record levels of funding” and “more doctors than we've seen in its history”.

The all-out industrial action was triggered after rank-and-file doctors rejected a deal recommended by the British Medical Association junior doctors committee leadership and the government.

The stoppage represents a dramatic escalation in response from the BMA, which has previously conducted rolling strikes.

Jeremy Hunt accused doctors of leaving patients in 'pain' 

“If you need a hip replacement that will mean you’re in pain, that’s why you’ve been given the NHS right to have a hip replacement and if you’re told you’re going to have to wait another month or two months that pain is going to continue,” Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“People will rightly ask why the BMA, who said only in May this was a good deal for patients, a good deal for doctors, good for the NHS, are now saying it’s such a bad deal that they want to inflict the worst doctors’ strike in NHS history.”

Though Mr Hunt said he would do “anything we can do” to stop the strike, he said he would not negotiate over the contract, which doctors say will harm patient safety.

“The judgment that I have to take is that were I to do that would that bring this dispute further to a resolution of further away?” he said.

“My judgment is to proceed with the contracts that was negotiated in May and supported by the BMA leadership but to say we are willing to talk.”

The BMA said doctors would call off the strike if the Government reopened negotiations over the contract and stopped its imposition.

“We have a simple ask of the Government: stop the imposition,” BMA junior doctor committee chair Ellen McCourt said.

“If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action.”

“This is not a situation junior doctors wanted to find themselves in. We want to resolve this dispute through talks, but in forcing through a contract that junior doctors have rejected and which they don’t believe is good for their patients or themselves, the Government has left them with no other choice.

“Junior doctors still have serious concerns with the contract, particularly that it will fuel the workforce crisis, and that it fails to treat all doctors fairly.”

She added that “genuine efforts” to resolve the dispute had been “met with an unwillingness to engage and, at times, deafening silence from the health secretary”.

Mr Hunt has remained as Health Secretary during the dispute despite a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle by Theresa May.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in