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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)

  • Ultimately, an elected Govt. can pay what it feels is enough, such 400000 pounds for ONE legal aided case recently. ONE!!.
    Doctors can be had for 30 pence an hour [ 30 years ago = 2 pounds an hour today].
    So why pay more for doctors? they have a vocation and there will be always doctors who are truly just vocational, who will work for almost nothing.
    But enough ? Who knows ? Only the next few years will tell.

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  • Sauce for the goose......final year medical students and young doctors won't be held hostage by the SoS for Health. It cuts both ways....

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  • Bizarre aggressive language to use against the caring professions .

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  • I WONT BE HELD HOSTAGE BY MR HUNT OVER 7DAY NHS ACCESS!!! Who else plans to be??????

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  • When will it enter Hunts brain there already is a 7 day NHS at point of need. The man will be the end of us

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  • I don't care any more. Let the idiot have his way, the whole colossal cock-up called NHS will collapse sooner and we will enter the era of private insurance based healthcare. Paying customers will quickly learn to self-care about the trivia, freeing access for those who really need it. In the end we will all be happier and more wealthy. Thanks Jezza.

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  • I sincerely hope at least now our so called leaders wake up....
    Pradeep dream on. If you think our leaders have either backbone or your/mine interest at heart, you are leaving in DREAM land...

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  • well of course he wouldn't . Who would pay to get him out ?

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  • I've never met Hunt but I stood in some once

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  • Where's our pioneer Ivan gone? Are you there?

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