A top doctor has again thrown down the gauntlet to David Morris for a debate over the NHS after the Morecambe MP had a dig at him in the Commons.
Dr David Wrigley hit back after Mr Morris and the health secretary Jeremy Hunt accused him of “using the NHS as a political pawn” over the junior doctors’ strikes.
The row broke out over a Sunday Times article in which Dr Wrigley, vice-chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), was described as a “key militant behind the action”.
The article repeated a quote made by the Carnforth GP on Twitter 12 months ago, where he said: “We can beat the Tories and make this country great again.”
Mr Morris referred to the Sunday Times story after Mr Hunt announced in the Commons that the BMA had delayed the first strike from September 12 until October 5.
“The fact that these strikes are occurring and being called off is very serious,” said Mr Morris. “One of my constituents stated in the Sunday Times that this issue could be used to beat the Tories and make the country great again. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is appalling that patients across the country are being used as pawns in the political game of ‘Corbynista-ism?’
Mr Hunt replied: “I completely agree. It helps no one to try to use the NHS as a political pawn and to weaponise the NHS as it tried so destructively to do before the last election.”
Dr Wrigley, a GP at Ash Trees Surgery in Carnforth, said: “Once again Mr Morris seems to think it is wrong for a doctor to have political views.
“I stand by my comments given how I have seen the NHS deteriorate dramatically since the Tories gained power in 2010.
“It’s a shame Mr Morris criticises me once more from the comfort of the chamber of the Houses of Parliament but refuses to have a public debate with me on the NHS - a challenge I repeat once more to him.
“The last thing doctors want to do is go on strike but our junior doctors feel they have no other option given Mr Hunt is imposing a contract that junior doctors rejected in a recent ballot.”
Strikes are now due from Wednesday, October 5 to Tuesday, October 11 (although the weekend will be covered), Monday, November 14 to Friday, November 18 and Monday, December 5 to Friday, December 9.
The dispute is over a new contract for training medics which makes Saturday a normal working day and will help the government achieve its aim of a seven-day service.
Key concerns raised by junior doctors include the impact that the contract will have on those working less than full time, a majority of whom are women, and the impact it will have on junior doctors working the most weekends, typically in specialties where there is already a shortage of doctors.
But Mr Hunt said yesterday that “the remaining planned industrial action is unprecedented in length and severity and will be damaging to patients, some of whose operations will have already been cancelled”.