The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been criticised for accusing the British Medical Association of irresponsibility over the ongoing junior doctors dispute.
Hunt claimed in a television appearance that the union which represents doctors had refused to sit down and discuss improving patient care.
Additionally, the Health Secretary claimed that the British Medical Association was guilty of deliberately spreading misinformation.
However, with passions running high on an issue that means a great deal to people all over the United Kingdom, some of Hunt’s comments have been greatly criticised by those sceptical about the Conservative commitment to the NHS.
In particular, it has been pointed out that some of the statements of the health secretary are rash and misleading, with regard to a study quoted in relation to NHS deaths.
During a TV appearance on the BBC, Hunt had claimed that 11,000 more people die in hospitals at the weekends owing to the lower levels of staffing.
However, doctors have responded strongly to the statement, accusing him of deliberately misrepresenting a paper written by NHS England Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh for the British Medical Journal.
And not to be outdone, Hunt responded once more in the light of criticism on the matter, only to misquote the same paper for a second time.
As the rhetoric on the subject becomes more heated, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander described Mr Hunt’s handling of negotiations over the new contracts as an “utter shambles.”
Alexander pushed for Hunt to make concessions in relation to the definition of unsocial hours in the new contractual agreements, which has proved such a stumbling block for a cessation to the conflict being found.
In addition, Alexander was strongly critical of Hunt for misrepresenting academic studies on weekend mortality, and also took the time to point out that there could be a mass exodus of healthcare professionals from the UK to other English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia.
Alexander warned that Hunt “has to stop behaving like a recruiting sergeant for Australian hospitals, and start behaving like the Secretary of State for our NHS.”
Offering further negative response to Hunt’s TV performance, Dr Johann Malawana, the British Medical Association’s junior doctor committee chair, defended the commitment of junior doctors.
“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.”
The Department of Health has not commented on Hunt’s blunder, but it is clear that the level of ill feeling between the two parties is rising.