Hunt should resume junior doctor talks, Abbott tells conference

27 Sep 16

Diane Abbott has accused Jeremy Hunt of treating junior doctors as part of “the enemy within” in the long-running dispute over a new contract and called on the health secretary to get back around the table.

Speaking to the Labour party conference in Liverpool, the shadow health secretary said Hunt had “persistently vilified and misrepresented the British Medical Association and the junior doctors themselves”.

On Saturday, the BMA called off a series of five-day strikes planned for October, November and December, in protest at a new contract that is intended to increase the availability of staff at evenings and weekends.

Junior doctors had rejected the terms in a vote in July, and a rolling programme of disputes was then planned in protest over Hunt’s plans to impose the terms. However, this now been postponed amid patient safety concerns and BMA junior doctor committee chair Ellen McCourt called on the government to engage in further talks.

In her comments today, Abbott said health service workers already work at weekend and junior doctor morale had collapsed.

“The junior doctors’ industrial action is suspended and I hope that, even at this late stage, Jeremy Hunt will get back around the table with the doctors. But let there be no doubt: Labour stands with junior doctors.”

She also said the party will be holding the government to account over Brexit, including the £350m that the leave campaign said could be given to the NHS if the UK’s contributions’ to the economic bloc stopped.

“We need to remember the 55,000 EU workers in the NHS and the 80,000 EU workers in social care. Our health and care system depends on these workers. We need to be clear that an end to freedom of movement could be a disaster for the NHS and social care, and we need to demand assurances from the government about the EU workers already here.”

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