Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said it “was not credible” for the junior doctors’ leader to call for further talks or offer to suspend next week’s all out strike unless both sides discussed Saturday pay.
In a letter to Dr Johann Malawana he said that the two-day strike next week “will put patients in harm’s way.”
He told Malawanea, chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors’ committee, that anyone who decides “to withdraw potentially lifesaving care for patients is making a choice to do so”.
In the letter he outlined 75 negotiating meetings with the committee over the last three years and said the Department of Health (DH) had made 73 concessions.
He said the DH is now offering a premium rate for the whole of Saturday working.
Malawana had written offering to avert strike action if the government lifts the imposition of the new contract.
He told Hunt he is “happy to meet or discuss this offer with you at any time between now and the start of next week’s industrial action.”
Junior doctors will be withdrawing all services, including emergency care between 8am and 5pm next Tuesday (26 April) and Wednesday (27 April).
Hunt responded: “Given your previous positions and our understanding of the outstanding issues, it is simply not credible to call for further contractual talks or offer to suspend industrial action whilst still refusing to discuss Saturday pay.”
He said: “It is not possible to change or delay the introduction of this contract without creating unacceptable disruption for the NHS.”
Malawana said: “The imposition of this contract is tremendously damaging to the morale of junior doctors and medical students and has resulted in a complete breakdown of trust between doctors and the government.”
Professor Terence Stephenson, the chairman of the General Medical Council issued a statement, warning doctors that “taking thousands of doctors out of emergency frontline care in England is unprecedented and cannot be done without putting patients at greater risk of harm”.
He said 24,000 operations have been cancelled over the previous four walkouts.
He advised junior doctors to “carefully consider the impact it will have on patients – both the cumulative effect and the additional risks created by withdrawing emergency cover”.