Labour has said Rishi Sunak must focus on resolving junior doctor strikes rather than his row with Boris Johnson over the former PM’s resignation honours list.
Mr Sunak claimed earlier this week that Mr Johnson asked him to overrule the House of Lords Appointments Commission after his proposed peerages to prominent allies were blocked.
Mr Johnson subsequently hit back, accusing Mr Sunak of “talking rubbish”.
It comes as junior doctors today walked out at 7 am in a strike that will continue until 7 am on Saturday.
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Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, commenting on the Johnson-Sunak row as junior doctors walked out, said this morning: “I think the question at this stage, having failed to get to a negotiated settlement, is where is the prime minister?”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme: “If [the prime minister] has got an hour of his time to sit with Boris Johnson negotiating gongs for cronies and peerages in the House of Lords he should have an hour at least to negotiate an end to these terrible strikes which are causing misery for the doctors involved and even more importantly misery for patients who are seeing their operations delayed and cancelled”.
It comes as the medical director for NHS England told Sky News that patients should expect “a lot of disruption to regular care” as a result of junior doctor strike action.
Stephen Powis said that just under 200,000 appointments were disrupted – or around 50,000 per day – in the last strike. The impact of this action will be “similar”, he confirmed. He also said the strikes will make it “a bit harder to get on top of the [NHS] backlog”.
Ahead of the strike today, the British Medical Association which represents junior doctors called the government’s 5 per cent pay offer “paltry” and said talks had become “unproductive”.
Speaking later to Sky News, Wes Streeting vowed to be “very, very careful” regarding spending commitments on the NHS.
He said: “We’ll be very, very careful about the policies that we make in terms of spending. Every time I think things can’t get worse with this economy under the Conservatives. Inflation is not falling in the way that was expected and predicted interest rates are rising; ask anyone like me who has renewed his mortgage this week, what’s going on there? And the economy is not in a good state.
“We’ve got to be hard-headed and realistic about what a Labour government might inherit”, he added.
Labour has already committed to scrapping the “non-dom” tax status in order to fund “the biggest workforce expansion in the NHS history”.
Mr Streeting repeated this morning that this will amount to a £1.6 billion investment in the health service.
With industrial action hitting the NHS, the government is today set to move the writs to formally trigger by-elections in the former constituencies of Boris Johnson and Nigel Adams, who resigned at the end of last week. Mr Adams had been set to receive a peerage on Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list but was not among the final names approved by the PM.
The contests are now expected to take place in mid to late July, possibly on the same day.
Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary, is yet to resign in what could be seen as an attempt to prolong the pain for the PM as opposition parties vie for her Mid Bedfordshire seat.