By Flavia Munn 11 February 2016
The BMA has attacked the Government’s ‘bullying’ approach to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England condemning it as a ‘total failure’ on ministers’ part.
Junior doctors leaders said the decision announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) in the Commons was driven by politics rather than an attempt to come to a reasonable solution for trainees, who would not accept the contract.
BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana said: ‘The Government’s shambolic handling of this process from start to finish has totally alienated a generation of junior doctors - the hospital doctors and GPs of the future - and there is a real risk that some will vote with their feet.
‘Our message to the Government is clear: junior doctors cannot and will not accept a contract that is bad for the future of patient care, the profession and the NHS as a whole, and we will consider all options open to us.’
The ministerial announcement came after more than 160 picket lines were set up around England as thousands of junior doctors took a second 24-hour period of industrial action, which ended at 8am today, over the 'unfair contract'.
Mr Hunt told the Commons: ‘Along with other senior NHS leaders and supported by NHS Employers, NHS England, NHS Improvement, the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, [chief negotiator Sir David Dalton] has asked me to end the uncertainty for the service by proceeding with the introduction of a new contract that he and his colleagues consider safer for patients and fair and reasonable for junior doctors. I have therefore today decided to do that.’
But Dr Malawana said the decision was a ‘sign of total failure on the Government’s part’, while shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander rounded on the health secretary in the Commons describing the move as ‘the biggest gamble with patient safety this House has ever seen’.
Dr Malawana said: ‘Instead of working with the BMA to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of patients, junior doctors and the NHS as a whole, the Government has walked away, rejecting a fair and affordable offer put forward by the BMA.
'Instead it wants to impose a flawed contract on a generation of junior doctors who have lost all trust in the health secretary.'
Dr Malawana added that junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week under their existing contract.
‘If the Government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it.
'Rather than addressing these issues, the health secretary is ploughing ahead with proposals that are fundamentally unfair,’ he said.
Dr Malawana also pointed out that it was the rest of the UK that had chosen a different, ‘constructive’ path with only Mr Hunt choosing to impose the contract in England.
Find out more about negotiations
Read more from Flavia Munn and follow on Twitter.