Junior doctors' pay will not be cut and they will not be asked to work longer hours under Government plans for seven-day NHS services, Jeremy Hunt has insisted.
The Health Secretary said it is "utterly irresponsible" to suggest he is trying to introduce "unsafe" longer working hours and pay cuts, and he called on doctors to work with ministers to deliver seven-day services.
His comments came after the British Medical Association (BMA) said it would ballot its members on possible strike action over a conflict regarding working hours and pay.
The Government has said it plans to impose the new contract on doctors, up to consultant level, next year.
The contract will reclassify doctors' normal working week to include Saturdays and up to 10pm every night of the week except Sunday.
Medics argue they will lose out financially as evenings and Saturdays will be paid at the standard rate rather than a higher rate.
They say this amounts to pay cuts of up to 30%.
Former health minister Dan Poulter said the anger from doctors was understandable and based on "valid" concerns, including about patient safety.
But Mr Hunt insisted he wants to support doctors who work at weekends with "properly staffed shifts" and safe working hours.
The Health Secretary told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester: "When we said we were committed to seven-day services in the NHS in our manifesto it wasn't just about the convenience of getting to see a GP at the weekend, important though that is.
"It was to end the scandal of 11,000 excess deaths every year because of what is known as the 'weekend effect' in hospitals.
"We are not asking junior doctors to work longer hours, that wouldn't be safe.
"Nor are we seeking to cut their pay and it is utterly irresponsible for some people to try and scare people into believing we are.
"What we do want to do is to support the many doctors who do work weekends with properly staffed shifts, safe working hours and seven-day diagnostic services so that patients are not put at risk.
"So I say to those people working very hard right now on the front line, stand beside us as we address this.
"What's good for patients is good for doctors, so be our partners in building the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world."
Shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne said: "First the party which hits working families with tax credit cuts claims they're for the workers, now they say they're for the NHS despite five years of taking it backwards.
"You can't be the party of the NHS when you've made it harder to see a GP, pushed up waiting lists and plunged hospitals into financial crisis.
"The Tories will be judged on their actions not words and they're actions which prove you can't trust them with the NHS."