West Suffolk Hospital boss Stephen Dunn denies supporting Jeremy Hunt’s imposed junior doctors contract
17:55 12 February 2016
A Suffolk hospital boss has denied supporting the imposing of a contract on junior doctors after his name appeared on the “key” letter that led to the decision.
Professor Stephen Dunn, chief executive of the NHS trust at West Suffolk Hospital, was listed among 20 NHS chiefs who supposedly supported the contract being imposed to end the long running dispute.
The move to force the new contract, which has been labelled dangerous by the British Medical Association (BMA), has hurt morale at the Bury St Edmunds Hospital – whose junior doctors went on a 24-hour strike from 8am on Tuesday.
However, Prof Dunn said his view had been misrepresented and that he only agreed to support the “fair and reasonable” contract offered by the Department of Health (DoH).
Yesterday a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the letter, sent to the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt by the Government’s negotiator Sir David Dalton, was the “key reason” behind the decision to force the contract on the doctors.
In a letter to junior doctors Prof Dunn revealed his fears for their morale, inviting them to an emergency meeting so he could “clarify” his position.
The letter, sent on Wednesday and seen by the EADT, read: “I would like to clarify that I did not support the imposition of the contract, although I did agree to lend my support to the latest offer made and I was prepared to say, and still am, that I believe it is a fair and reasonable offer.
“I am deeply concerned about the morale of junior doctors both nationally, but more particularly in our own trust as a result of this latest development.
“I would like to invite all juniors working at West Suffolk Hospital to a meeting with me tomorrow (February 12).
“This will be an opportunity for me to clarify my personal position, restate my full support for our doctors and all they do here and to answer any questions they may have.
“I do hope that this offer will be taken up by as many doctors as are able to be there and please convey to your colleagues my disappointment at the way the support I offered Sir David Dalton has been misconstrued in the letter that was issued today.”
The hospital boss joined at least nine other signatories in publicly distancing themselves from Sir David’s letter which told Mr Hunt’s department to “do whatever it deems necessary” to ensure the new contract was in place and informed the health minister that 20 chief executives supported his position.
The backlash from the letter led to public criticism of Prof Dunn on Twitter and Facebook, with the chief executive repeatedly defending himself from attacks online from a range of medical professionals.
Sir David’s letter was defended by Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers who represent NHS trusts.
He said: “As Sir David Dalton has made clear, the statement that the chief executives agreed to was confirming that the best and final position was considered fair and reasonable, and that they believed the NHS needed certainty and not continuation of the stalemate.
“There are a variety of opinions about the government’s decision to impose this contract, and the BMA must take responsibility for their failure to engage with the substantial compromise position offered to them on Tuesday. Our priority now is to work with trusts to ensure that they have the support they need to effectively introduce this new better contract.”