Health Secretary sparks outrage after disgraceful description of junior doctors

“How insulting … They are doctors, they save lives every day.”

Victoria Atkins

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins has been slammed for her insulting and disgraceful description of junior doctors after they began a three-day strike this week.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents around 50,000 junior doctors, announced that its members would be walking out on Wednesday for three days, and again for six days from Jan. 3 to 9, in a long-running dispute over pay.

Answering questions on the strike action on BBC Breakfast this morning on why strikes couldn’t be averted, Atkins said that the government has negotiated pay rises with most of the NHS workers who went on strike this year over their salaries.

She went on to add: “The last cohort is that of junior doctors, or doctors in training as I prefer to call them.”

Her claim that junior doctors are ‘doctors in training’ led to an immediate backlash, with senior Labour MP Chris Bryant immediately condemning the health secretary on X: “They’re doctors. Doctors. Not doctors in training.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting tweeted: “I prefer to call them doctors.” And shadow care minister Andrew Gwynne added: “How insulting … They are doctors, they save lives every day.”

Another social media user wrote: “Junior doctors are fully qualified. Specialty training for doctors can take up to eight years depending on the area.”

Richard Murphy added: “This idiot is our health secretary. She thinks ‘junior doctors’ are ‘doctors in training’. The reality is that they are all hospital doctors who are not consultants – in other words, the majority of all doctors, and many of them have considerable experience. Is she being deliberately insulting, or is she just gratuitously rude?”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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