Health minister Jeremy Hunt warned that the British Medical Association (BMA) would not be a “road block” to reform and seven-day working, at a conference in London today.
Hunt gave the BMA an ultimatum to negotiate seven-day working for hospital doctors by September, otherwise he warned he will impose a new contract without an opt-out clause for weekend work.
The Department of Health (DoH) had been trying to negotiate with the BMA since 2012, he said, but the union walked out of talks last October, and Hunt is aiming for the majority of hospital doctors to be on seven-day contracts by 2020.
In response, the BMA said his announcement was a "wholesale attack" on doctors, and asked for answers from Hunt on how this would be funded and staffed, branding his speech “short-sighted”.
After the speech Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, also commented: “The secretary of state's announcement will sound the alarm bells for hardworking GPs who fear we will be next in line - even though we are already being pushed to our limits in trying to provide a safe five-day service for our patients… We also fear that it could precipitate a mass exodus from the profession, and it is our patients who will bear the brunt.”
Hunt also announced that GPs will be required to let patients know the CQC rating and waiting time for any hospitals they can be referred to, in a bid to empower patients.
He added that: “Patients also need to be able to make a meaningful choice about which GP surgery is most appropriate for their needs. Right now that is not always possible.
“We will address this through our new deal for general practice, which will boost GP provision in under-doctored areas with NHS England giving particular attention to making sure that there are alternatives available when a practice has been rated inadequate,” Hunt said.