A question looms for the Tories: can Jeremy Hunt repair relations with doctors?

News & Analysis

12th January 2016

Junior doctors are now on strike over their new contract, with recriminations between the two sides continuing as the picket lines fill up. It is clear that there has been a fundamental breakdown of trust between the BMA and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to the extent that both sides seem to be talking about completely different contracts.

Many Tories think the BMA is going too far and is not serving the cause of its members well by provoking the public with cancelled operations. It is striking that Sarah Wollaston, who has criticised the government’s approach to the matter, is now attacking doctors’ decision to strike as counterproductive, too.

But what’s interesting is that Tory MPs who have been interviewed on radio and TV over the past few days have often felt it necessary to say that the government could have handled the row better, even if they’re prepared to defend the conditions that are currently on the table. There is a sense that Jeremy Hunt may have learned the wrong lessons from his hero Michael Gove in how to confront vested interests, and MPs are clearly not comfortable defending the government to the hilt when they see doctors becoming increasingly politicised.

The question is whether once this row has finally been resolved, a new face is needed to calm relations between the medical profession and the Tories, as happened in Michael Gove’s case after his altercations with the teaching unions became toxic, or whether Jeremy Hunt can do this himself.


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