No U-turn over new junior doctors' contract: Hunt
There will be "no retreat" on introducing a new contract for junior doctors, Jeremy Hunt has said as he insisted the Government does intend to "impose" the deal.
There has been speculation that the Health Secretary may have U-turned on how the new contract will be implemented amid suggestions that he may not have the legal powers to actually force it upon junior doctors.
But Mr Hunt rubbished the suggestion in the House of Commons as he responded to an urgent question from Labour on the issue.
Mr Hunt told Parliament earlier this year that the new contract would be imposed after months of bitter negotiations with the British Medical Association (BMA) broke down.
Newspaper reports suggested the Health Secretary may have softened his stance and was now looking to "introduce" the deal rather than "impose" it.
But Mr Hunt today sought to clarify the situation, telling MPs that nothing had changed in the Government's approach.
He said: "This House has been updated regularly on all developments relating to the junior doctors' contract, although there has been no change whatsoever in the Government's position since my statement to the House in February."
He said the deal will begin to be implemented in August as part of a phased approach.
"This Government has a mandate from the electorate to introduce a seven-day NHS and there will be no retreat from reforms that save lives and improve patient care," he said.
"Modern contracts for trainee doctors are an essential part of that programme and it is a matter of great regret that obstructive behaviour from the BMA has made it impossible to achieve that through a negotiated outcome."
The dispute between the BMA and the Government has seen junior doctors undertake widespread industrial action.
A fifth strike is currently planned for April 26 and 27 with a full withdrawal of labour on the cards between the hours of 8am and 5pm on both days.
If that goes ahead it will be the first time ever that doctors have staged a full walk-out.