A junior doctor holds a placard during a strike outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London yesterday.
Junior doctors across England took part in a second day of all-out strike action yesterday during which they provided no emergency care for patients.
It comes after more than 20,000 junior doctors are estimated to have walked out on Tuesday as the dispute with the government over a new contract continues.
The strikes are the first time doctors have stopped providing emergency care in the history of the NHS.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted this is likely to be his “last big job in politics” but insisted the government will not be “blackmailed” into dropping its manifesto pledge of improving seven-day services. Figures compiled by NHS England suggest 78% of junior doctors (21,608) who were due to be working on Tuesday did not report for duty.
However, NHS England said the figures had not been fully validated and include those who may be off due to sickness or other reasons. Hunt said yesterday that “elements” in the British Medical Association (BMA) had refused to compromise over the new contract, which will be imposed on doctors from August.
He said: “Insofar as it is a political strike, I do think there are some elements - not the majority and certainly not the majority of junior doctors - but there are some elements at the very top of the BMA who are absolutely refusing to compromise.”
He added: “This is likely to be my last big job in politics. The one thing that would keep me awake is if I didn’t do the right thing to help make the NHS one of the safest, highest quality healthcare systems in the world.
“Health secretaries are never popular. You are never going to win a contest for being the most liked person when you do this job. But what history judges is: did you take the tough and difficult decisions that enabled the NHS to deliver high-quality care for patients? For me, that’s what it’s about.”