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Hunt says he will not be 'held to ransom' by doctors over seven-day access

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt launched a strong defence of the Government’s role in the junior doctors contract dispute, saying he will not be 'held to ransom' by the health profession over plans for a seven-day NHS.

Speaking at a Nuffield Trust conference today, Mr Hunt said that backing down from the junior doctors' contract dispute in light of the strike action organised by the BMA would have been the ‘wrong thing to do’.

This would have ‘set a precedent’ that groups can ‘hold patients and the Government to ransom by completely unreasonable behaviour’, he added.

Mr Hunt imposed the contract last month, after negotiations with the BMA's junior doctors' committee had broken down.

He admitted that the junior doctor contract was not only factor standing in the way of the Government’s plan - with other obstacles including the consultants contract and seven-day general practice - but said imposing the junior doctors contract was necessary to ‘move forward’.

Mr Hunt said: 'I have always been very clear that the junior doctors contract is a part of what we need for a seven-day NHS, but only one part, there are lots of other things. The consultants' contract, seven-day diagnostics, a seven-day social care system, seven-day services through general practice – all very important parts of that commitment.' 

’But in the end, we have to make important steps forward and the Government’s position was to sit down and say that we want to have a reasonable negotiation about having a modern contract for junior doctors that would improve care for patients.'

Mr Hunt said that 'despite a huge amount of effort, it was not possible to get any movement from the BMA'.

The health secretary added: 'I think if I had done anything differently, it would have been a very backward step, because it would have sent a signal to the service and to the country - that a group is able to hold patients and the Government to ransom by completely unreasonable behaviour.’

Mr Hunt added that he believed that in future, this would be looked back on as the ‘quality decade’ for the NHS, when difficult decisions were taken to improve the system.

His comments come as the BMA has said there will be further strike action against the junior doctor contract imposition and as GPs could threaten with mass resignations unless the Government comes up with an agreeable ‘rescue deal’ for general practice within six months.

Readers' comments (89)

  • Vinci Ho

    So , unreasonable behaviour is the new term.
    Imposing is reasonable behaviour
    Apologise to these young people is unreasonable
    The list can go on ...

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  • If you want it, Hunt, you are going to have to pay for it.

    Nothing for free. You have no goodwill left.

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  • Whereas the government and Hunt of course have been a paragon of reasonableness! Utter twaddle from this snake oil salesman.

    As above, a Rolls Royce service costs Rolls Royce money and your Chancellor has seen to it there will be no more money till 2030 or some such. You want a Rolls for Kia money, and you will get the same response anyone of us would in that scenario.

    Goodwill at zero. After his barnstorming column yesterday, I suggest Tony Copperfield replies for all of us.

    Shove it, Jezza. I'll work Sundays seeing dimwit snotty punters for tuppence a go when I am handcuffed to my desk, and not a minute before.

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  • No Jeremy, and neither will we be held to ransom.

    To paraphrase Kissinger, when confronted with a knot, it is perhaps better not to keep pulling on your end of the rope; this rarely helps to untie things.

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  • I don't think history will judge him that kindly. The public aren't stupid and they know the NHS is being starved to death for a corporate fire sale.

    Hunt's staked his claim to the top job on this fight but he's an also-ran compared to BoJo and George. He'll end up being known as either the man who killed the NHS or a footnote in Tory history. On the other hand, people will always need doctors.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Oh! You are so 'lonely', Agent Hunt
    Mencius said, 'He who outrages the benevolence proper to his nature, is called a robber; he who outrages righteousness, is called a ruffian. The robber and ruffian we call a mere fellow.........'

    A mere fellow is a very lonely person, marginalised and isolated!
    Sorry about the Chinese philosophy , Agent, sure your wife can explain this properly to you....

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  • Goodbye Jeremy will be the kindest words he'll hear if he tries to enforce full 7 day service without full funding even if there were enough GPs to work it. The funding probably won't cover the MDO fees.
    I'm off if the next contract doesn't improve working conditions.

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  • Doctors are voting with their feet,huge vacancies amongst all hospital trusts causing massive locum fees,primary care on its knees and this idiot talking rubbish.British doctors will not accept the terms and conditions offered by Hunts NHS it is called market forces Jezza
    I will not work a seven day week and I will not work in a federation to see the routine patients of a nearby practice either,so we close.I have just had a partner leave on ill health grounds have offered a partnership to two locums of good quality who didn't blink before turning me down,they are happy to carry on as locums but do not want partnerships
    His only hope is to bring in huge numbers of Doctors from overseas

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  • There was a story about a chap called Adolf who believed that he was sending legions out to counter the Russian advance in May 1945.
    It is clear that Mr Hunt shares a similar delusional framework, conjuring up legions of doctors and other professionals to provide a seven day service. It is worrisome that he has not yet been dismissed from his post by the Prime Minister given that it is only Mr Hunt and his lackeys who believe that they have all the answers, boding ill for the future of medicine in this country .

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  • How utterly insulting to the NHS its committed hard working work force and beyond.As a small cog in a big wheel we will come of the track very soon if this continues. I have had the privilege of working with all different groups in both primary and secondary care they are there to help, care, treat, cure and much more none of these atributes can be said of the health minister.Obsession of seven days we have already its just the services are set up to be realistic so we are closed for routine work through the night and weekends what would possibly change going to 7 day working. We need patient education not change at the cost of everyone. Privitisation could be the next model and then so many more will suffer.

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