The health secretary said 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.
The BMA called Mr Hunt’s comments a ‘wholesale attack on doctors’.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said Mr Hunt’s comments would ‘sound the alarm bells’ for GPs who fear they will be next in line.
The government has pledged that every patient in England will have access to a GP appointment from 8am to 8pm weekdays and at weekends by 2020.
‘Many GP practices are already running extended opening hours but forcing GPs to do this would present a massive risk to patient safety by creating exhausted and overworked GPs,' said Dr Baker.
GP workforce crisis
‘We also fear that it could precipitate a mass exodus from the profession, and it is our patients who will bear the brunt.
‘More than half of all out-of-hours services in the UK are run by or led by local GPs. We think that the emphasis should be on better resourcing for these services and on making patients and the public aware of the services available so that they can have better access to the skills of a GP 24/7 when they need them.’
BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘Doctors support more seven-day hospital services and have repeatedly called on the government to outline how they will fund and staff them. Despite whatever the health secretary may claim, his simplistic approach ignores the fact that this is a much broader issue than just doctors’ contracts.
He added: ‘Today’s announcement is nothing more than a wholesale attack on doctors to mask the fact that for two years the government has failed to outline any concrete proposals for introducing more seven-day hospital services. The health secretary has questions to answer. How does he plan to pay for it? How will he ensure there isn’t a reduction in mid-week services or fewer doctors on wards Monday to Friday? Yet again there are no answers.’