Jeremy Hunt rejects 'spin' claim over bid to avert doctors' strike

Jeremy Hunt: Strike Action Is 'Extremely Disappointing'

Jeremy Hunt has dismissed allegations that he lied over the health of negotiations to avoid the first strike by junior doctors in 40 years.

The Health Secretary was accused of "typical spin" over his claim that talks between the British Medical Association (BMA), NHS Employers and Government officials had nearly reached an agreement to avoid mass walkouts later this month.

Junior doctor and campaigner Dr Salwa Malik said Mr Hunt's assertion that a dispute over weekend pay was the single issue left in contention was a lie, claiming instead that the parties remained at loggerheads over three issues.

If consensus is not found, junior doctors have promised to stage three strikes, beginning with a walkout on Tuesday January 12.

Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Mr Hunt insisted talks were on track and only one of 16 points of dispute remained to be resolved.

Commenting on Dr Malik's allegations, he said: "I think that kind of language is not very helpful."

Mr Hunt said he had received a letter from Acas, the Government's industrial relations body, which said "very good progress has been made on 15 of the 16 issues raised in the Acas process".

He added: "That's where I got my numbers from and I think we did make good progress and I think the particular area where we made good progress was over pay and was patient safety."

Mr Hunt said 99% of doctors would "see their pay protected or increased".

Mr Hunt said his department had agreed with the BMA to put a cap on doctors working more than four nights or five "long" days in a row.

The maximum hours that any doctor can work in a week will be reduced from 91 to 72, or an average of 56 hours a week over a two-month period.

He added that plans were being considered to have more experienced clinicians on hand to support junior doctors at weekends.

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