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Mr Hunt - drop the imposition and we can work together to implement a seven-day NHS

Dr Kailash Chand

Junior doctors in England will start their two-day all-out strike tomorrow. The BMA has repeatedly said it would call off the strike if Jeremy Hunt’s threat to impose a contract on junior doctors was lifted. Does Mr Hunt have no care, consideration, responsibility for patients as he persistently, stubbornly and arrogantly refuses to talk to the BMA and avert this strike? 

When the present service is practically on its knees, it makes no sense to stretch it further

It will be the first time in the history of the NHS that junior doctors have walked out of accident and emergency units, urgent maternity services, resuscitation and mental health crisis teams. The reasons for such action, which is rare (the last juniors’ strike was in 1975 over similar issues), go deeper than pay. And what must not be forgotten is that 98% of the 37,000 juniors balloted by the BMA agreed on a full-out strike.

The blame for another junior doctors’ strike lies with Mr Hunt. The health secretary devoted time and energy smearing doctors and playing politics, when he should have been finding a just and fair solution. Mr Hunt’s tactics have throughout been aggressive, crude and mostly alienating. He tried – and failed – to divide juniors from their union. Trying to bully the juniors to accept unsafe working conditions is not going to cut any ice.

Before the last election, David Cameron promised ‘a truly seven day NHS’ in his election manifesto. However, it had one major problem: he didn’t have any money to fund this nor indeed has he defined what he meant by it. Let me remind you that the manifesto promised England would be ’the first nation… to provide a truly seven-day NHS… with hospitals properly staffed, so that the quality of care is the same every day of the week.’ Now what Mr Hunt is doing is to implement that manifesto promise by dropping properly staffed from his action plan.

The idea that Mr Hunt can conjure up an excellent week-round service by forcing already stretched junior doctors to work longer for less is a delusion. When the present service is practically on its knees, it makes no sense to stretch it further. Mr Hunt’s conduct in this dispute right from the beginning to the current controversy about his authority to impose the contract, been littered with dubious statistics, manipulation and misrepresentation to public and parliament alike.

Last Saturday, the health secretary wrote to Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA council, asking him to call off the strike and resume talks. Mr Hunt, it is very simple, you call of the imposition and BMA will respond immediately.

Please, Mr Hunt, the imposition of an unfair, unjust contract is a recipe for exodus of medics and this will kill any hope of ever providing a 7/7 NHS (there will be scores of medics who will follow what Dr Ben White has done in the full glare of media this morning and resign). There is nothing to be gained in this futile battle for anyone. Let’s work together to decide how we can provide more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff to implement your seven-day world class NHS services.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE is the deputy chair of the BMA, and a retired GP


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Readers' comments (10)

  • Actually he does not want to work together, he just wants us to resign.

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  • Harley Thespaniel

    No, we can't.

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  • To impose an unfair contract on Junior doctors by manipulation of the true facts by Mr j Hunt is a recipe for disaster. Junior doctors are currently working 7 days a week to provide the best service in this under funded NHS and to expect them to work longer and unsociable hours at less pay is shameful. I say fair pay for a fair days work. I suggest Mr Hunt resign and let someone with more commonness negotiate with the BMA.

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  • You speak as someone from the polar opposite political point of view to the government - as witnessed by your failed attempt to be adopted as a labour candidate. You are entitled to your views but, by the same token, so is the government. I am sure both sides care as much as the other as to what is the best way to provide the best patient services.

    You only express some generalised rhetoric in your article along the lines of 'let's talk' but add a probably insurmountable barrier to the BMA conditions to do so. Sometimes such a rigid direct route is not the most useful. I will look forward to reading your practical solution to the issue, but I feel that offering to join talks unconditionally would break the log-jam and open up another route to a solution suitable for both parties.

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  • No we bloomin well can't. Speak for yourself if you want to work 7 days

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  • well said 6:02, maybe if the GP Cardies of BMA House actually did a week's work at the coalface maybe they might become slightly more annoyed like the rest of us and stop fannying around - or is it only the JDs who can stand up for themselves and the public?.
    Honestly calculate how many Drs, nurses, ancillary staff are needed every day. Are they still looking for 7 days full elective work and clinics as well as the current 7 day emergency work? How many contacts per day is safe? Then how much will it actually cost in truth in the real world without statistical manipulation, build a time machine to have all these thousands of extra staff trained (or a cloning machine as well?) and hey presto. As it stands all those consultants doing clinics 7 days a week will deprive the private sector of it's staff and surely Jeremy that is the opposite of what you want?

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  • It's not possible to work with Hunt because he has designed it that way.
    He does not want to pilot the scheme -( obviously because that would give the game away.)
    He would like to see the NHS fail see Direct Democracy. He thinks the National Health Service is a 60 yr old mistake .
    Hunt hopes the doctors will take the blame .

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  • It's not "No we can't", it's "No, we won't". Cost neutral for more cover and more work? Do the maths, we must be worse off for time and money. Time to book a one way ticket to Oz. Hurry while stocks last!

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  • Author is OBE and retired GP. That's ok then.

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  • Comment withdrawn. Misunderstood gist of article. Apologies.

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