Jeremy Hunt told the BBC Andrew Marr programme on Sunday that the doctors’ union has spread ‘misinformation’ about the dispute and refused to sit down and talk about improving patient care.
But junior doctors’ committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana accused Mr Hunt of ‘shambolic mishandling’ of the dispute and warned he risked ‘alienating a generation of junior doctors and undermining the delivery of future patient care’.
Tens of thousands of junior in non-emergency roles, including GP trainees, are due to strike for 24 hours from 8am Wednesday after the latest round of talks failed.
Sir David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal Foundation Trust, who is leading negotiations, said last week there had been ‘substantial progress’ across a ‘large number of areas’. The two sides have failed to agree over pay for unsocial hours and government demands that some Saturday hours should be considered plain time.
Junior doctor strikes
Mr Hunt told the BBC programme that junior doctors’ anger was partly caused by the BMA telling them they faced pay cuts when they will not. ‘They were told that they were going to be asked to work longer hours - they aren't,’ he added.
‘We are actually bringing down the hours that they work. And if you are told by your union that the health secretary wants to do these awful things - of course you are going to feel devalued.’
Dr Malawana said the BMA wanted to reach an agreement and its door was always open to talks.
‘But the government is putting politics before reason, and their continued threat to impose a contract that junior doctors have roundly rejected leaves us with no option’. he said.
‘Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, they need more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it.
‘Rather than addressing these issues, Jeremy Hunt is instead ploughing ahead with proposals that are unfair and could see many junior doctors voting with their feet. We already have a situation where unprecedented numbers of junior doctors are considering their options and even leaving the NHS, how can the government deliver more seven-day services if there are even greater staff shortages in the NHS1? The health secretary is also still refusing to acknowledge that he has scared patients and the public, and angered NHS staff by misrepresenting statistics.’