The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, leaves his home amid the furore over his imposition of a new contract on junior doctors. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The daughter of the former cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, a junior NHS doctor, has called for Jeremy Hunt to be sacked, accusing the health secretary of misusing statistics and alienating “an entire generation of junior doctors”.
Dr Hannah Mitchell, who is currently working on a research fellowship in Botswana as part of her post-foundation programme, warns that the morale of junior doctors is at “breaking point” after Hunt imposed a new contract.
In a letter to the Guardian, Mitchell writes: “What Jeremy Hunt has managed to achieve is nothing short of spectacular. Health secretaries have come and gone, imposing new measures of varying unpopularity on the NHS, but not one has managed to so completely unite doctors in their dislike and alienate healthcare workers across the board in the way he has.
“He says we lack vocation, he paints us as the problem. The morale of the workforce is at breaking point; with imposition, the goodwill of doctors who work hours beyond those they are rota-ed and paid to do [so] will dry up.”
Mitchell, who says she is likely to seek permanent work in South Africa after her research fellowship and then a posting in Sierra Leone, said her colleagues have been incensed by Hunt’s claim that the new contract needs to be introduced to avoid preventable deaths at the weekend. Under the contract, doctors will be paid their normal rate for working on Saturdays between 7am and 5pm as part of the government’s plan to create a seven-day NHS.
“I am one of the many junior doctors who have left the UK. If he goes ahead with imposition of [the] contract, I am certainly unlikely to return to the UK to continue clinical practice. The health secretary has alienated an entire generation of junior doctors, we have no confidence in him, he must be sacked,” she said.
Hunt has been accused of distorting the findings of a report, published in the British Medical Journal last year, which highlighted the fact that 11,000 more deaths occur within 30 days of admission to hospitals between Fridays and Mondays.
Mitchell said Hunt has misused the report. “The health secretary is not even clear on what he means by a seven-day-week NHS. He continues to misuse research to support his arguments. He has been told the statistics he uses are not correct, meaning he is either dishonest or stupid, I don’t know which is worse. He demonises the BMA, and lies about their actions. They are not a militant union; they are the very moderate voice representing junior doctors in the UK,” she said.
Mitchell is also furious with Hunt’s suggestion that the new contract will introduce a sense of vocation for medical staff. “That is the most inflammatory and appalling thing to say as a health secretary about junior doctors,” she said.
Andrew Mitchell, the former international development secretary, told the Guardian: “There is no three-line whipping system in the Mitchell family. We are an open democracy and there is no dad in the country who is prouder of his daughters and the fantastic doctor that Hannah has become.
“Whatever the merits of this matter, the junior hospital doctors are a dedicated, hardworking and inspiring group of people, although inevitably the government is responsible for managing this resource.”