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Doctors stand firm in face of Hunt’s threats

HEALTH bosses stood accused of bullying striking junior doctors yesterday after they demanded a last-minute scabbing spree on the back of a “major incident.”

Bosses at Sandwell General Hospital in the West Midlands declared a “level four major incident” and ordered doctors back to work to relieve the pressure.

But the British Medical Association, which called the strikes, urged its undaunted strikers to stand firm.

BMA junior doctors chairman Johann Malawana said there had been “last minute, inept and heavy-handed attempts to bully junior doctors.”

The desperation came amid a groundswell of public support for yesterday’s historic strike, with picket lines across Britain swelled by trade union activists and well-wishers showing their solidarity.

Villainous Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was on the run, with government press officials even telling a reporter that he should not ask questions as to Mr Hunt’s whereabouts.

He did not appear on broadcast media yesterday until midday, when his ministry released a pooled clip in which he smarmed: “This is a completely unnecessary dispute. We have some disagreements with the BMA over pay.”

But on Monday evening a Department of Health spinner attempted to stop a Sky News journalist from asking Mr Hunt’s sidekick Norman Williams where his boss was.

At the Royal London Hospital, paediatrician Sunayna Best told the Star there had been “so much misrepresentation” of the doctors’ dispute, which centres around Mr Hunt’s attempts to introduce new rosters and strip down extra payments for unsocial hours.

“The buzzwords [used by ministers] are really irritating,” she said. “They’re saying ‘seven-day NHS’ over and over.

“But we already work seven days.”

Labour frontbenchers John McDonnell and Tom Watson, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and socialist legend MP Dennis Skinner were among those showing their support at St Thomas’s Hospital in south London.

Nearby at Guy’s Hospital dentists, who announced last week they would join the strike, strengthened the picket lines.

“We’re outraged because the way we’ve been presented is unfair. We’re all there doing our jobs to do the best for patients,” said junior dentist Imogen Bexfield.

“We think the new contract won’t bring the best for patients and won’t bring the results that everybody wants and yet they’re trying to portray it like it’s a positive thing and really hiding the truth.”

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