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Hunt says it is a 'tragedy' it took BMA 'so long' to enter junior doctor talks

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has blamed the BMA for taking ‘so long’ to agree to negotiate the junior doctor contract, but added that he thinks doctors ‘realise’ that the plans for greater  seven-day services are ’the best thing for patients and doctors’. 

Commenting on the last-minute aversion of a junior doctor strike today, Mr Hunt said it was a ‘tragedy’ that the BMA had not wanted to ‘actually sit around the table and discuss it’.

Mr Hunt’s comments have been viewed as inflammatory by junior doctors, whose bid to take the dispute to conciliatory talks led by Acas was initially refused by the health secretary.

Junior doctors’ leaders have previously said that they are prepared to negotiate with the Government if they are given assurances that there will be no contract imposition, and that Saturday and evening work will be treated as unsociable hours.

Mr Hunt waited until the eve of strike action to withdraw - temporarily - his threat of imposition, via a House of Commons statement delivered yesterday afternoon.

The health secretary told Sky News: ’The tragedy is that it took so long for the BMA to want to actually sit around the table and discuss it.

’But when they did, as doctors, I think they did realise that what we were trying to do was the best thing for patients and for doctors. I hope now we can make progress.’

Doctors have said that the comments were ’inflammatory’.

Dr David Coleman, a GP in South Yorkshire, said: ’More inflammatory comments from Hunt - a great starting point for fresh negotiations’, while Dr Kaanthan Jawahar, a psychiatric trainee in the East Midlands, said ’Jeremy Hunt’s greatest skill is to say something inflammatory whenever the dust tries to settle’.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said that ’the Government’s handling of these negotiations has been a lesson in precisely how not to do it’.

She said: ’If Jeremy Hunt had agreed to independent talks when it was first put to him he could have avoided or at least mitigated any disruption to patients [today].

’Unfortunately, it will now be too late to rearrange the operations and appointments that have been cancelled and those patients deserve an apology from Jeremy Hunt.’

The current dispute centres on proposals from the Review Body on Doctors and Dentists Remuneration (DDRB), which the Government has said it may impose on junior doctors.

Under the proposals, Saturday and evening working will no longer count as ‘unsociable hours’ for junior doctors, meaning that trainees who do lots of out-of-hours work will see their salaries cut.

For GP trainees, the proposals will remove the current guarantee of pay parity with hospital doctors, known as the GP registrar supplement.

The strikes had been planned for three dates in December, starting today. As it stands, the BMA’s strike ballot - which saw 98% of junior doctors support a full walkout - is valid until 13 January, meaning the BMA could still call strike action.

Readers' comments (53)

  • I have undergone conditions via an interim order panel and have first hand experience of torture at the hands of GMC's inhumane dictatorial process. After nearly three years of torture GMC dropped the investigation. During this time my family and I suffered physical and mental agony, our health suffered and we sustained significant financial loss.

    This whole thing was instigated when I raised concern about the shambolic service and patients suffering in the hospital. The GMC has not taken any action against the individuals involved who forwarded false data to the GMC. The' expert' hired by the GMC put in a report beyond his expertise. The same expert had recently been criticised by high court for poor judgement and acting beyond his competence. There was no expression of regret from GMC for the prolonged and completely unjustified investigation .

    It is outrageous for Niall Dickson and others to suggest that Doctors who commit suicide have pre existing severe mental health problems . The fact is that the FTP process can make well doctors sick and drive the best and most balanced of us to suicide . The BMA and medical fraternity must come together to push for the immediate sacking of all senior figures involved, a manslaughter charge and /or a full public inquiry into all the FTP deaths .

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  • Jeremy hunt is a "nutter" ! HE WAS THE ONE WHO REFUSED ACAS UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. This man is the most bizarre politician I have ever met-he transfers his own peculiar behaviour onto others.

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  • Beware he has not changed his tune and is unrepentant. Shamless man

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  • I don't hold out much hope for a settlement if this is his negotiating stance!

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  • I make him right.

    Patients have already been affected, contingency planning budgets have been spent, so today's suspension is immaterial in practical terms.

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  • Hunt does not realize that he himself is a walking tragedy for the patients and public of UK. Ignorance is bliss isn't it? Especially, if you know not that you know not.

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  • And now the BMA look stupid for not going on strike, he's already spinning out of control. His ideology to get a 7 day health service on a less than 5 day budget will fail, opening to privatisation and to do that the doctor's contracts have to be cheap to sell to HMOS.

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  • Snake

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  • The man has a forked tongue....................

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  • Trouble is....his media wing ie THE DAILY so good at pumping out **** that the electorate will believe these disgraceful and outrageous tales.

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