Jeremy Hunt warned against 'gunboat diplomacy' after seven-day NHS speech

A GP organisation has accused the health secretary of 'unacceptable gunboat diplomacy' after he threatened to impose weekend working on hospital consultants.

Dr Peter Swinyard: accused Jeremy Hunt of 'gunboat diplomacy' (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Peter Swinyard: accused Jeremy Hunt of 'gunboat diplomacy' (Photo: JH Lancy)

The Family Doctor Association (FDA) accused Mr Hunt of being ‘blindly wedded’ to a seven-day NHS without realising that the investment required was ‘way beyond anything achievable’.

The health secretary in a speech on Thursday that he would not allow the BMA to be a ‘roadblock’ to a seven-day NHS.

If the BMA will not agree to weekend working after a six-week negotiating period, Mr Hunt said, ‘we are ready to impose a new contract’.

Mr Hunt said that 6,000 people a year lose their lives because of the lack of a proper seven-day NHS.

Seven-day general practice

The FDA said that threatening impositions was ‘no way to deal with a caring profession’ and that the health secretary’s approach affected the whole profession and patients. Chairman Dr Peter Swinyard said: ‘Threatening imposed contract changes is a gunboat diplomacy style which is unacceptable. 

‘Without a more modern diplomatic style, the health secretary may soon feel like a grouse on the Glorious 12th’, he added - a reference to the opening of hunting season.

The association suggested that the government could achieve a seven-day service in general practice by commissioning pre-bookable appointments from existing out-of-hours providers.

The BMA called Mr Hunt’s comments a ‘wholesale attack on doctors’, while the RCGP warned that GPs could be next in line to be forced into working weekends.

A senior Labour member of the health select committee, Emily Thornberry MP, said it was ‘ridiculous’ of Mr Hunt to think he could achieve a seven-day service ‘without the support of the doctors’.

‘If a seven-day NHS is to be anything more than a rhetorical flourish, Jeremy Hunt will need to move forward in a way that seeks to co-operate with doctors and not to antagonise them,' she said. 

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