Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, said that he had to impose a modern contract on junior doctors, to avoid setting a precedent to other NHS groups.
Speaking at a Nuffield Trust event, the minister said that not imposing the contract, following failed negotiations and strikes, would be “the wrong thing to do”.
If he had not imposed the contract it would have “set a precedent” to the rest of the NHS that one group could “hold patients and the government to ransom by completely unreasonable behaviour”.
This comes as further industrial action by non-emergency doctors is set to commence next Wednesday for 48 hours.
The health minister added that the junior doctors’ contract is only one part of his plans for a seven-day NHS, and that other “very important parts” are seven-day services through general practice, social care, diagnostics, and the consultants’ contract.
He added that making changes to the contract did not have to be as difficult as it was, and that “despite a huge amount of effort it was not possible to get any movement from the British Medical Association”.
The current and, according to the Department of Health, only sticking point now is weekend pay and whether Saturdays should be classed as normal, plain-time or premium pay hours.