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DH dismisses claims it has threatened royal colleges over industrial action

The Department of Health has summoned the heads of the medical royal colleges to a meeting with health secretary Jeremy Hunt to discuss the patient safety implications of industrial action by junior doctors.

But it has moved to dismiss allegations by the chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee that the meeting would be used to pressure the colleges into opposing industrial action - which the DH has said endangers patient safety.

A message posted by the JDC chair Dr Johann Malawana suggested that the Government was ‘threatening’ the colleges’ royal charter if they did not back the Government.

The colleges have confirmed they have been summoned, but said the issue of their charters had not been raised.

Professor Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP said they would consider not attending if other colleges report their charter status was being questioned.

A DH spokesperson said: ’It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the Government could somehow summon independent royal colleges to force them to support a particular position. The BMA has continually refused to negotiate and has put patients at risk by asking junior doctors to support industrial action.

’As the public would expect, the health secretary will in the coming days be meeting with royal colleges and a wide range of other organisations to get independent advice about the potential impact of any industrial action.’

Dr Malawana said in the private junior doctors forum: ’Last night, we found out that all the college presidents have been summoned to the secretary of state’s office today to be told they have to come out and condemn junior doctors and strike action. They are effectively having their royal charters threatened if they don’t back the Government. 

’If any do start issuing statements, please don’t react with anything other than professional courtesy and by questioning the statement’s reasons. Read them carefully as some will try to be very supportive of doctors. We need to strengthen the ones that are trying to be supportive.’ 

Professor Baker said: ’We have been asked to attend a meeting with the secretary of state for health next week. The issue of our royal charter has not been mentioned. If we do hear from our colleagues from other colleges that this is the case, then we will think again about attending the meeting.

’We meet with the secretary of state and the health spokespeople from other political parties on a regular basis to discuss a variety of issues and have no reason to think that this will be any different.

’Junior doctors are the future of our profession and we support them wholeheartedly – whatever the outcome of the ballot on industrial action. We will make this clear when we meet the Secretary of State next week.’

It comes after the BMA recently took out an injunction against the GMC in a bid to prevent the regulator issuing advice to doctors, which the BMA said could be ‘misleading to doctors and could have been construed as seeking to influence the voting intentions of junior doctors.’

The injunction was overturned but the regulator said it was never its intention to influence junior doctor’s voting, only to remind doctors of their responsibilities to patient safety.

It also amended the wording, and the BMA said: ’The GMC provided greater clarity in a now published statement, which was our desired outcome.’

Readers' comments (24)

  • The government trying to bully and harrass the profession no never(well they have been doing that in the press for over 5 years).Do the government not realise alot of us hold these colleges in as much contempt as them.

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  • It's a shame the royal colleges are so reviled . I think they do an excellent job of arse licking and back pedalling.

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  • Would RCGP be called to ask GPs to man A&E and ward during Industrial action, thoughts not so! However Consultants would be asked to mop the ward in absences of Junior Doctors!! If their college decide so!!

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  • I expect all Royal colleges to support Junior Doctors OPENLY, only way to win support & (££ membership) of their members back. Otherwise why would I pay membership fees?

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  • Anonymous 3:37 - remember GP trainees are junior doctors as well; hence RCGP called. Admittedly less impact on patient care and service provision if they strike as supernumerary but still huge impact on lives of pur training colleagues.

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  • Auntie Maureen's weekly email was pretty snivelling today. It seems we've upset the Cardie brigade by suggesting they might want to change their usual tactic of welcoming every utterance from Hunt and instead actually asking those few members they have left what they think then, shock horror, representing those views. Apparently it's not their remit to get involved, and yet she signs off hoping the strike won't happen, which I am sure will be picked up on and used to beat us with. And then to have the nerve to wag the finger at anyone active on social media. Maureen, you do not speak for me or any GP I know, and frankly, you're embarrassing. Please have an extended holiday until this is all over.

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  • Surely it's only fair for the medical royal colleges require the DOH to concede a whole list of preconditions before they meet to discuss anything. Poetic justice, perhaps.

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  • These royal colleges are interested in their own survival rather than what's the best for their members and patients.Its a pity that they still exist.

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  • In a word the only thing these bullies will listen to is the word strike

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  • Took Early Retirement

    The issue has always been that these colleges are charities and as such risk losing their status as charities if they get too political. The political side is supposed to be the job of the (don't laugh) BMA.

    HOWEVER, since a strike would be bound to have some (very modest) effects on patients, the most pathetic of the lot (RCGP) will want to say something about it. I would argue, however, that a statement along the lines of "Well, we don't normally agree with this, but it has been entirely caused by the government" would be extremely unlikely to provoke the wrath of the Charity Commission.

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