Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has accused the British Medical Association of being “totally irresponsible” in its behaviour during the ongoing dispute over junior doctors’ pay and conditions.
A second round of industrial action by junior doctors (outside of emergency care) in England is planned this week after contract negotiations with the government recently broke down again with no resolution in sight.
The government’s threat to impose a contract is a key sticking point, and the BMA also argues that its proposals will mean a salary cut for doctors despite an 11% rise in basic pay, because of new restrictions on what is considered unsociable hours pay.
Also, the union has strong concerns over the removal of safeguards to ensure that junior doctors aren’t being over-worked, and it insists that more doctors and nurses are essential if the government is to push ahead with its plans for seven-day services.
But Hunt told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “It’s incredibly disappointing the totally irresponsible way the BMA has behaved in refusing to sit down and talk about how we can improve patient care and spreading misinformation”.
He said junior doctors are angry “because they were told by the BMA that their pay was going to be cut - it isn’t. They were told they were going to be asked to work longer hours - they aren’t. And it you’re told by your union that your health secretary wants to do these awful things then of course you’re going to feel devalued.”
However, comments from junior doctors read out by Marr on the programme seem to paint a different picture. One said: “With so many patients to see I’m absolutely petrified I’m too exhausted to look after them properly. If we are stretched, even more thinly, over seven days, I am certain patients are going to die.”
Another stressed that the progression is at absolute breaking point. “I see doctors in tears because they are so despairing about what the future holds. Jeremy Hunt has done this. He’s driving away a whole generation of doctors.”