Hunt is right to stand by the new contracts for junior doctors

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Doctors are at the heart of Britain’s much-loved NHS.

They are among the most highly trained professionals in the country and they are deservedly among the highest paid workers in the land.

The average income of GPs is around £100,000 per annum, while consultant physicians start on more than £70,000 pa and rise over time to almost £100,000 pa, and with bonus payments can earn even more than that on the NHS.

They also enjoy pension provisions that would be the envy of most of the private sector, heavily subsidised by taxpayers.

However, the government has stood firmly by its new contract for doctors below consultant level.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to cut the number of hours over a weekend for which junior doctors can claim extra pay. Saturday, which currently attracts a premium payment, will be considered a normal working day.

Crucially, however, Mr Hunt wants to increase their basic salary by 13.5%. Saturdays after 5pm and Sundays will still attract premium rates of pay.

This is an entirely reasonable proposal.

It is appalling therefore that more than 100,000 operations and appointments will be cancelled as a result of this strike action.

This newspaper has strongly supported welfare reform and the notion that everyone in society must play their part at a time of extreme financial constraints and rising government debt.

This must apply to wealthy companies paying tax. It must apply to families in receipt of large annual sums in benefit payments and it must apply to professionals who are generously paid by the state.

It is not acceptable that hospitals have higher death rates at weekends than on weekdays. Hospitals must have comprehensive medical cover seven days a week and government should not have to pay through the nose to ensure it.