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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)

  • What's in a word! the statement issued by Maureen changes 'summoned' to - 'has been asked to attend a meeting' oooh! nothing unusual in that - do it all the time..more worried about losing their status than supporting the NHS

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  • all the royal colleges are spineless weasels.

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  • Infuriating rhetoric as always. See how they casually drop in that the "BMA is refusing to negotiate". They know full well that the BMA CANNOT negotiate, without pre-accepting huge swathes of compromises, which completely negates the point of negotiating at all.

    Yet they keep saying it and hoping people will believe it.

    I'm not by instinct a support of strike action, but I am completely supportive of our junior colleagues on this - they must win this battle.

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  • The Colleges are also subject to another force: their members. If the RCGP caves into this, then, I, for one, would not renew my membership with them. If they haemorrhage members, they lose their funding AND any semblance of clout.

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