Top headlines today
15:30 Health minister Ben Gummer seems to have given GPs the very faintest of praise while talking about the junior doctors’ strike earlier this week.
He said: ‘It is true that a small portion of the BMA – and it is not the whole point, we’ve just come to an agreement on the general practitioners’ contract with the BMA – but the junior doctors’ committee I am afraid, in the last few years, has become radicalised.’
14:15 Our top story this afternoon is the new NICE guidelines on low back pain. It has dramatically reduced the options available to GPs, advising that SSRIs, TCAs and strong opioids are avoided.
It also calls for GPs to stop using acupuncture – describing it as no better than sham treatment.
11:00 In an urgent question on the junior doctors’ strike in the House of Commons this morning, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander urged the Government to admit their imposed contract had ‘nothing’ to do with seven-day services and everything instead to do with reducing the NHS pay bill.
However, health minister Ben Gummer, who took the question in health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s absence, maintained this was not the case, because ‘the contract is cost neutral’.
Ms Alexander asked what the Government was doing to avoid the planned full walkout – accusing Mr Hunt of ‘being sat on his hands instead of trying to avert this action’.
She said Mr Hunt’s assertion that this matter was now ‘closed’, was ‘arrogant and dangerous’ and urged the Government to abandon imposition plans and restart negotiations on reducing junior doctors’ unsocial hours on weekends.
But Mr Gummer launched a counter attack, saying it would be ‘easier to avert’ the strike action if the Labour Party declared opposition to it.
10:15 Unite the Union has likened health secretary Jeremy Hunt to Pontius Pilate, as it hit out at his handling of the junior doctor contract dispute.
Unite head of health Barrie Brown said it was ’appropriate that as the escalation of the junior doctors’ strike action is scheduled for after Easter that Jeremy Hunt is likened to Pontius Pilate washing his hands over the very real concerns that doctors have about patient care’.
Pilate, who was head of the Roman province of Judaea at the time, famously washed his hands to show he was not personally responsible for the death of Jesus, despite presiding over his trial and crucifixion.
Chair of Doctors in Unite, Dr David Wrigley, a GP in Lancashire, said: ’Doctors never want to strike and definitely never want to harm patients. However, doctors feel they have no other option and if the contract is forced through there will be significant harm to patients in the future in an already over-stretched NHS.’
9:40 The DH has responded to the BMA’s announcement that junior doctors will withdraw full labour – including emergency care – on two days next month.
It said: ’This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible – and will inevitably put patients in harm’s way.
’If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now – instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders.’