The junior doctors strike will be remembered not only as the first time in NHS history that a complete walk out took place, but also for its viciousness. Both the British Medical Association and the Government can share their blame in this. Jeremy Hunt’s threat to ‘impose’ contracts on junior doctors was unhelpful in its forcefulness, even if his frustration was understandable. Whilst the rhetoric used by the BMA has also scarcely painted the association in a good light. Junior doctors may have had their concerns about patient safety but this was also a dispute about pay and to suggest otherwise was disingenuous. It seems, at last however, that an agreement has been reached. The BMA’s Dr Johann Malawana said the terms offered a ‘good deal’ for junior doctors. Whilst Jeremy Hunt insisted the agreement ‘represents a definitive step forward for patients, for doctors, and for the NHS as a whole.’
Both sides are clearly doing their best to paint the agreement as a victory and whilst we won’t know until July 6th whether the new contract has the backing of junior doctors themselves, what does seem difficult to imagine is how the relationship between Hunt and the medical profession can automatically become amicable again. The Health Secretary has praised Malawana for making a ‘difficult decision’. But what seems trickier to unsay is some of the things spoken during the dispute itself. Jeremy Hunt was asked, for instance, about his comments that the strike had been used by some elements of the BMA to bash a Tory Government. He responded by saying:
‘I think we have seen a very serious and constructive attitude from the leader of the junior doctors committee. And if that was the case I think it shows that isn’t what the leadership of the BMA stand for. They clearly do want to do a deal’.