David Cameron has refused to rule out imposing the new pay and hours contract on junior doctors if talks to resolve the dispute between medics and the Government fail.
The Prime Minister said if the Government did not it would hand a veto to junior doctors and the British Medical Association (BMA) on the future of the NHS.
He also suggested the new contract, which the Government says is designed to deliver a seven-day NHS, might be forced on medics before the strike planned for February.
:: So Why Are Junior Doctors Striking?
The February strike will see all junior doctors down tools rather than just reducing the number of medics working to emergency cover – the levels seen over bank holidays.
“We cannot simply go into a situation where the junior doctors have a complete veto and block over us in our NHS, but we are talking to them in very good faith.
“I think we have settled 15 of the 16 issues that they raised, there is an 11% basic pay rise on the table so I would urge them to get round the table to have the final negotiations … ”
:: Where’s Jeremy Hunt? You Can’t Ask That
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I don’t want this strike situation to continue, what I want is what I promised in our manifesto: a seven-day NHS.”
Mr Cameron insisted the strike was “unnecessary and damaging” and said that no junior doctor working legal hours would lose pay and that 75% would see a pay rise.
He cited the figure the Government has been using to back its drive for a seven-day NHS, that people who had suffered a stroke were 20% more likely to die if they went to hospital at the weekend.
The figure has been widely criticised by doctors and the medical director of NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, has said it was impossible to quantify whether it was the case.
:: Junior Doctors’ Strike: Talks Resume
Talks on resolving the dispute resumed late last week. Mr Cameron says that 15 of the 16 issues raised by junior doctors have been settled.
The key sticking point in the new contracts is the changes to weekend working, which would see junior doctors lose their extra pay for “unsocial hours” on Saturdays.
They would retain the higher level of pay after 7pm on Saturday and all day Sunday.
Hospitals had to cancel 4,000 operations and thousands of appointments were scrapped during last week’s 24-hour strike.
If no resolution is found, there will be a 48-hour stoppage and the provision of emergency care only from 8am on 26 January.
On 10 February there will be an all-out strike from 8am to 5pm.