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Saturday 9th
posted by Zoe Streatfield in Britain

McCluskey says measure will mean fewer health professionals

JUNIOR doctors and other health professionals will join students to march on Downing Street today in protest against the Tories’ proposals to cut NHS bursaries for students.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who will be speaking at the People’s Assembly rally, condemned the proposals as “short-sighted” and “ideological.”

Mr McCluskey warned that the cut would mean “fewer nurses, fewer speech and language therapists and fewer health visitors at a time when we need more than ever before.”

He said it was “ludicrous” to impose such a financial burden on those training, adding that the “loss of student bursaries is another loss to the NHS and the people in our country who depend on it.”

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who will also address the rally, called the proposals “yet another assault on our ailing health service.”

She noted that “nurses and midwives form the backbone of the NHS” and that the NHS bursary was “an investment, rather than a cost.”

In the run-up to the protest, there were calls for an official inquiry into reports that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt attempted to “politicise the Paris terror attack” in a letter supposedly raising concerns over the impact of the junior doctors’ strike.

Following the massacre in the French capital last November, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh released a controversial letter questioning whether striking doctors would return to work if a similar attack took place on the other side of the Channel.

Emails now reveal that senior Department of Health figures, with the support of Mr Hunt, pushed for revision of the letter to make the possible impact of a major incident during the strike as “hard-edged as possible.”

At the time, 3,000 medics wrote to Sir Bruce accusing him of using the terror attack for “political purposes” and pointing out that any suggestion that striking doctors would not return to work in such an event “was not in keeping with the inherent duty that junior doctors have to serve the public.”

These latest revelations were likely to infuriate junior doctors as last-ditch talks to resolve the dispute over new contracts resumed yesterday. The talks had not concluded as the Star went to press.

A Department of Health spokesman defended the attempt to sex up Mr Keogh’s letter, claiming: “Industrial action of the kind planned by the BMA creates a major safety risk for patients.”