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#GPnews: May praises Hunt as an ‘excellent health secretary’

17:10 And finally today, Labour have – although not quite given support to junior doctors – placed the blame firmly at the Government’s door.

Diane Abbott MP, shadow health secretary, said: ’Junior doctors have absolutely no confidence in Jeremy Hunt and this Tory Government. If Theresa May was serious about prioritising the NHS she would be working to solve this dispute and properly fund our National Health Service.

’The NHS is only as strong as the morale of its staff. The Junior doctors’ decision to carry out the very first five-day strike in NHS history reveals that morale and trust in Theresa May’s Government is at rock bottom.

 ’The Tories talk about a 7-day NHS, but they are causing 5-day strikes.’

14:30 The repercussions of the BMA announcement are ongoing, with the Government – including Prime Minister Theresa May – hitting back.

Speaking to Sky News, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ’Patients will be asking why it is that the BMA, who only in May said ”this deal is a good deal for doctors, a good deal for patients, it’s good for the NHS, it’s good for equality”, are now saying it is such a bad deal that they want to inflict the worst doctors’ strike in NHS history.’

Meanwhile, Ms May praised Mr Hunt as an ‘excellent health secretary’, the BBC reports. 

She added: ’The government is putting patients first, the BMA should be putting patients first – not playing politics.’

12:45 We know QOF might be on its last legs, but there is a potential alternative, as illustrated by Dr David Warriner on twitter:

We’re glad to see the doctor thought it best to avoid the Cephallonia version of the GMC, too.

11:20 The Patients Association are the latest group to comment on the strikes.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive, said: ’We are gravely troubled by the new round of strikes planned and the catastrophic impact this will have on so many patients and their families. We are approaching winter and it is well documented that the cold weather brings with it additional challenges to tackle poor health. Combine winter pressures with an already stretched NHS, alongside a series of extended strike action and it will almost certainly result in a NHS crisis.

’The Patients Association agree that 7-day service would be beneficial for patients, but it must be fully funded. To deliver such ambitious plans requires significant financial investment and robust work force planning.’

You may remember they were initially supportive of the strikes…

9:30 The DH has issued a statement on the junior doctors strike, saying that the BMA was the first union in history to strike over a deal they agreed.

The BMA yesterday announced junior doctors would hold a continuous five-day strike at the end of this month in protest at the contract imposed by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt. The contract had been agreed with BMA negotiators, but it was voted down in a ballot of junior doctors.

The DH said: ’As doctors’ representatives, the BMA should be putting patients first not playing politics in a way that will be immensely damaging for vulnerable patients. What’s more, the BMA must be the first union in history to call for strike action against a deal they themselves negotiated and said was a good one.

’Whilst there are many pressures on the frontline, funding is at record levels, with the highest number of doctors employed in the history of the NHS. Co-operation not confrontation is the way forward to make sure patients get the best treatment and the NHS is there for people whenever they need it.’

Yesterday, Dr Ellen McCourt, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said: ’The Government has consistently said this is about creating a seven-day NHS, when junior doctors already work weekends and it’s been shown that the Government has no answer to how it will staff and fund extra weekend care.

’With just weeks before the first group of doctors is moved onto the imposed contract, time is running out. This contract will be in place for many years, it will have a direct impact on patient care and whether we can attract and keep enough doctors in the NHS. It is too important to be rushed to meet a political deadline.

’We have a simple ask of the Government: stop the imposition. If it agrees to do this, junior doctors will call off industrial action.’