Junior Doctors: Industrial Action

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 5th September 2016.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health 6:36 pm, 5th September 2016

As ever, my right hon. and learned Friend speaks incredibly wisely. Actually, his last comment goes to the nub of why this is totally extraordinary, unprecedented and completely unacceptable. It is true that the junior doctors have rejected the agreement that was reached in May in a ballot, and we have to accept that. There are all sorts of reasons why that might have happened, but the choice to escalate the industrial action and to call the worst strike in NHS history was made not by those junior doctors but by the BMA leaders. They made that decision about a contract that they themselves had described as being good and safer for doctors and patients only in May. How can they justify that? Is there not perhaps a desire to pick a very big fight?

We were making good progress over the summer in a whole series of dialogues in different areas to try to resolve some of the non-contractual issues that the junior doctors are worried about, but this action makes it virtually impossible to continue that progress, although we will try very hard to do so. My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right to say that this is completely unacceptable and damaging for patients. I am afraid that I am having to go through some of the very same battles that he had to go through when he was Health Secretary.