THE British Medical Association (BMA) has criticised the “disappointing” comments from Labour’s shadow health secretary after he launched an attack on the “hostile” trade union.

In an interview with the Telegraph Wes Streeting targeted the BMA, which represents doctors and medical students, as he urged party colleagues to see the NHS as a “service not a shrine”.

He told the newspaper: “Given that we have committed to more staff, I cannot for the life of me understand why the BMA is so hostile to the idea that with more staff must come better standards for patients.

“Whenever I point out the appalling state of access to primary care, where currently a record two million people are waiting more than a month to see a GP, I am treated like some sort of heretic by the BMA – who seem to think any criticism of patient access to primary care is somehow an attack on GPs.”

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Streeting, criticising what he called “defensive attitudes”, said that Labour will not have a “something-for-nothing culture in the NHS”.

“I think the BMA does doctors no favours when they vote for motions that look like they’re living on a different planet and, worst of all, aren’t really thinking about the best interests of patients,” he said after English GP representatives last month voted to cut GP core opening hours to 9am to 5pm.

The Scottish Government's Health Secretary criticised Streeting for his comments.

"You would expect this from anti-trade union Tories, for Labour to directly attack those who represent NHS workers is shameful, a party that has completely lost its way," Humza Yousaf commented. 

"I am proud to be part of a government that continues to engage constructively with our health trade unions."

Meanwhile Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chair of council at the BMA, called the Labour MP’s comments “incredibly disappointing”.

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“The anger for that crisis should be directed squarely at the Government and their failure to invest, not at those who work in the NHS or the unions who represent them,” she said.

“It wasn’t so long ago that Mr Streeting and the Labour Party were clapping healthcare workers for their contributions during the pandemic, so to hear them now accusing staff of a ‘something for nothing’ culture and potentially supporting further real-terms pay cuts will leave many staff extremely concerned.”

The National: Nurses strike

Runswick said her organisation has often acknowledged “that a strong workforce goes hand-in-hand with patient standards and that investment in the workforce is the only way to improve our NHS”.

“We very much hope Mr Streeting will focus his attention on challenging this Government on ensuring that they will offer strong support to the doctors, nurses and other NHS workers who are now suffering unprecedented levels of exhaustion and burnout."

The UK Government is currently facing waves of strike action from various sectors, with Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members due to take part in unprecedented strike action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on December 15 and December 20.

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Ambulance workers are also set to strike on December 21 across England and Wales.

Streeting, who criticised the UK Government for its failure to negotiate with unions on pay in the current dispute with nurses, said: “I’m certainly not frightened to take on vested interests. And I’m not afraid to tell the BMA or other unions ‘no’ – and I think people respect that honesty.”

He admitted that if Labour wins the next General Election, the party “will be in a far worse position than the one we inherited in 1997, both in terms of the state of the public finances and also the state of the NHS”.