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Hunt’s approach to junior doctor contract has been ‘Stalinistic’, says former leader

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s approach to the new junior doctor contract negotiations was ‘Stalinistic’, former BMA Junior Doctor Committee chair Dr Johann Malawana has said. 

Mr Hunt had said last year in a speech that the pressure health secretaries come under can lead them to ‘discover their inner Stalin’ but the Government’s approach to measuring quality meant ‘a health secretary can relax a little’.

But Dr Malawana, who led junior doctors in a revolt against an imposed new contract during the course of the past year, posted an open letter on Facebook saying these comments were a ‘kick in the teeth’ considering what followed, culminating in a contract imposition this month.

It is Dr Malawana’s first major criticism of the health secretary since he stepped down from his post earlier this month after junior doctors rejected the contract that was agreed between the BMA negotiators and the Government. 

Mr Hunt later announced he would impose the contract regardless.

Dr Malawana’s strongly worded letter states: ‘Perhaps the biggest kick in our collective teeth was how you described being a more relaxed health secretary that was not going to take a Stalinistic approach.

‘Then being seen more like Stalin than any other politician by our generation of doctors, you decided to go far beyond anything we can have imagined.’

Dr Malawana further suggests the media had been geared against junior doctors taking part in the protests.

He tells Mr Hunt: ‘[You] attacked us not only collectively, but had your friends in the media come after doctors individually if they deemed to speak out against you. You had your staff brief journalists against doctors as if they were the enemy of the state.

‘The use of the collective force of Government and the media against a young generation of doctors simply standing up for themselves to protect themselves from your attacks, was beyond appalling.

‘Stalin would have been proud.’

Dr Malawana also writes in the letter that the Government has ‘starved’ the NHS of funding while blaming doctors for ‘avoidable deaths’, when the ‘fault… lies at the door of Richmond House and the Treasury’ – with Mr Hunt ‘helping to dismantle and destroy’ the NHS.

The letter says: ‘You wonder why mistakes happen. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what you can do to stop them.’

Commenting on the letter, Dr Malawana told Pulse: ‘The “Stalinistic” comment was taken as a direct quote from his King’s Fund speech in July last year… I basically just went through the speech and covered most of the points he covered a year later in light of events.’

The Department of Health declined to comment.

The letter, published by Dr Malawana via Facebook on 16 July, comes after Mr Hunt was retained in the health secretary role by new Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday last week. Following the appointment, Mr Hunt said he was ‘thrilled to be back in the best job in Government’.

Mr Hunt’s speech at the King’s Fund last July – when he set out his 25-year vision for the NHS – was published in full on Pulse the time. He said at the event that he had ‘yet to meet’ any doctor who didn’t support the Government’s seven-day NHS plans.