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Hunt to give British Medical Association six weeks to negotiate or face seven-day contract

Hunt's challenge BMA to negotiate or face 7-day contract. Photo: PA

The Health Secretary is to challenge the British Medical Association (BMA) by offering it six weeks to negotiate on changes for hospital consultants and junior doctors, or face a new seven-day contract.

Jeremy Hunt's speech called, The Conservatives, the true party of the NHS, at the King's Fund in London suggests that the BMA's position may be contributing to 6,000 deaths a year.

There will now be six weeks to work with BMA union negotiators before a September decision point. But be in no doubt: if we can't negotiate, we are ready to impose a new contract.

– Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

There is an expectation within government that the majority of hospital doctors to be on seven-day contracts by the end of the Parliament.

It wants to remove the ability to opt out from weekend and evening working from consultants' contracts by April 2017.

Around 6,000 people lose their lives every year because we do not have a proper seven-day service in hospitals.

No one could possibly say that this was a system built around the needs of patients - and yet when I pointed this out to the BMA they told me to 'get real'.

I simply say to the doctors' union that I can give them 6,000 reasons why they, not I, need to 'get real'.

They are not remotely in touch with what their members actually believe. I have yet to meet a consultant who would be happy for their own family to be admitted at weekends or would not prefer to get test results back more quickly for their own patients.

– Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

In the speech, which sets out the direction of NHS reform for the next 25 years, Mr Hunt is expected to say:

The Health Secretary claims that patient care and staff morale have increased in hospitals such as the Salford Royal and Northumbria which already work a seven-day system.

Mr Hunt will also pledge a cut back in the lucrative high-earning overtime payments that consultants can get.