Now that Jeremy Hunt has rejected a proposed cross-party pilot scheme for new junior doctors' contracts it seems this week's strike looks certain to go ahead. The industrial action is due to start tomorrow morning and junior doctors will walk out again on Wednesday, but the war of words for this week has already begun in earnest. The Health Secretary has fired the opening salvo in his letter to Dr Mark Porter. Hunt said the strike:
‘…seriously risks the safety of many who depend on the NHS’
Dr Porter, the BMA council chair, has been on Today defending the industrial action which will see junior doctors walking out and not providing emergency care for the first time in this dispute so far. When questioned about whether his colleagues would still refuse to return to a hospital if a patient urgently needed lifesaving medical treatment, Dr Porter said:
‘I would look at a government that has refused to listen to royal college advice and ignored public opinion on this. My senior doctor colleagues would be providing that care but I would also look at a government that has given junior doctors no choice but this. The Health Secretary is looking for some way to throw mud at junior doctors.’
Each side is now ratcheting up their language in this dispute. The big worry for both – which has been avoided so far – is that a patient will die as a direct result of the walkout. The BMA and Hunt are now pointing the finger at each other in a bid to prepare for the possibility that may happen. Hunt is doing his best to insist he has done everything to bring the junior doctors to the table for talks. Whilst the BMA is saying junior doctors have no choice in walking out. But if the worst were to happen and a patient does die this week during the industrial action when they might otherwise have been saved, it could quite easily end up dictating the outcome of this entire dispute.