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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)

  • Just keep watching, the Royal Colleges will discuss with the government and try to soften the action of Juniors. It is a foregone conclusion as the pedigree arises from government and posh schools. Why are we in this mess in the first place - the Colleges can't afford to have their funding cut off and will toe the line even if it means having covert meetings in the back alleys of Westminster

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  • It doesn't matter what the Royal Colleges do, what matters is how juniors vote. If I were eligible, any strong arm tactics would encourage me to vote for strike action. If they do not then there will NEVER be another opportunity to defend the medical workforce as new industrial anti strike laws are in the pipeline.
    We really must act now.

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  • Those thugs have been threatening everything and everyone since getting "full power". Even the recent letter from the GMC sounded biased and threatening. Here was me thinking we lived in a democracy. STRIKE!

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  • Vinci Ho

    The word is called TRUST. When the relationship between the profession and the Health Secretary , hence DoH and government , is at such an all time low, everything single step taken by the government is up against conspiracy theory.

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  • This is one of those rare moments where the answer is very simple... strike

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  • no need to threaten the colleges they will cave in on their own. many doctors don't support the colleges in any case - so if they go all the better - we will just form an independent (of the state) body that will represent our interests and be better off for it.

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  • "as the public would expect"
    Only if they have no idea whatsoever how a health service works,as one imagines is the case with the secretary of state.
    He is not meeting the chief execs, who organise the day to day running of the hospitals, and know staffing levels.
    Instead he meets the ivory tower academics and research chiefs, who are divorced from day to day clinical care,
    It is however these mandarins who will control the careers of the juniors, their admission to the colleges, and career progression
    what are they prepared to do for him, to retain their own standing

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  • This is a good sign . HMG is having frequent , copious and loose bowel actions over the threat of strike action. It shows we're on the right track .

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  • Refusal to treat any patient who is neither an accident or an emergency in A+E would certainly cause disruption without harming people.

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  • Why would RCGP be called if GP's are not considering striking ? Perhaps they're hoping for some helpful strike breaking scabs . Can GP's refuse to work in hospitals ?

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