Keir Starmer

Junior doctors force government to back down

It will come as a relief to everyone in the NHS that Jeremy Hunt – the minister concerned – has finally caved in and attempted to head off a damaging strike by junior doctors.

That this protest has gone as far as it did is an indication of how out of touch the Conservatives are with the health service. To extract these concessions the junior doctors had to threaten to take industrial action, something few of them wanted to see. 

Many began planning to leave Britain altogether! A poll of more than 6,000 trainees found 42 per cent of junior doctors said they would go abroad in search of work if  the government went ahead with its plans. 

At the heart of the dispute was an attempt to cut their pay by between 15% and 40% and force longer hours on them. 

In a letter to the BMA Mr Hunt has now said he will give “absolute guarantees” on pay and working hours. He is also offering another major concession: promising not to extend trainee doctors’ normal working week to include up to 10pm on Saturday. 

A formal response from the junior doctors will follow, but this is at least a beginning. What is really disturbing is that the Conservative government are prepared to go this far with an institution we all love and rely on: the NHS.