This week’s major junior doctors’ strike is set to go ahead on Tuesday and Wednesday, after Jeremy Hunt rejected a last minute deal brokered by Labour.
Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander yesterday organised an open letter to Hunt, co-signed by MPs from the Tories, Lib Dems and SNP, which proposed running a limited trial run of new contracts for junior doctors in order to assess the effect on weekend care. The proposal was backed by the BMA and Royal College of Surgeons, raising the possibility of the unprecedented NHS strike action being called off.
However, Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected the deal, and plans to press on with the imposing the new contracts regardless. He has dismissed as “opportunism” the idea of initially implementing the contracts as a pilot scheme, and is expected to reiterate his stance in a House of Commons statement today.
Unions representing doctors said that if the Government accepted the proposal they would be willing to re-open talks to avert strike action. Hunt’s hardline position means that industrial action affecting emergency care will go ahead for the first time in the NHS’s history.
Alexander said that she was “disappointed” by Hunt’s rejection, adding: “For the sake of patients, I honestly feel you should reconsider.”