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Jeremy Hunt thanks GPs for ensuring patient safety during junior doctor strikes

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has thanked GPs for keeping patients safe during this week’s junior doctor industrial action.

In a letter published by the Department of Health, Mr Hunt included GPs in a list of NHS staff who he thought were ‘a credit to our world-class NHS’.

The note comes after Tuesday and Wednesday saw junior doctors – including GP registrars – go on an all-out strike for the first time in the history of the NHS, including withdrawing urgent and emergency care.

Mr Hunt said he would ‘like to pay tribute to the NHS staff that have once again pulled out all the stop to keep services running effectively during industrial action’.

He said: ’I want to thank the thousands of dedicated nurses, doctors, paramedics, GPs, therapises, care workers and other healthcare professionals that have planned for weeks, worked long hours and pulled together to ensure services remained safe this week.

‘You are a credit to our world-class NHS.’

In a statement to Parliament on the junior doctor strikes earlier this week, Mr Hunt said NHS England had ’asked GP practices and other primary care providers in some areas to extend their opening hours so patients can continue to get the important, but non-emergency, care such as follow-ups and assessments, they need’.

Meanwhile, NHS England had told the public that there would be ‘extra primary care and GP response/appointment availability’ during the strike, but it told Pulse that any extra resource had to be committed regionally.

Pulse was only able to find one example of this, from NHS England in London, which said there would be ’4,100 extra appointments available in extended primary care, for example through primary care hubs across London’.

Elsewhere, NHS England regional teams had urged practices not to pre-book appointments on the days of the strike to ensure there was capacity for extra patients.

What next for the junior doctor contract dispute?

Following the conclusion of the historic two-day strike, the BMA’s Junior Doctor Committee chair Dr Johann Malawana placed the ball in Mr Hunt’s court by renewing calls for the Government to withdraw the imposition of the junior doctor contract.

He said yesterday: ’What happens next is in the Government’s hands. It cannot continue to ignore the tens of thousands of junior doctors opposed to this contract and who want to end this dispute through talks.

‘I have written to [the] health secretary calling on him again to lift the imposition, re-enter talks and address junior doctors’ outstanding concerns which are about much more than just pay.’

But the thank you note appears to have been the only public mention of the strikes from Mr Hunt today.