Jeremy Hunt has been blasted for missing an urgent debate on the NHS for the second time in just six weeks.
Once again the Tory chief was nowhere to be seen as MPs fought over the first walkout in junior doctors’ history .
Instead he was still trying to work out his sums for next week’s Spending Review – which will need the health service to save £22bn by 2021 in exchange for a cash boost.
Mr Hunt sent a deputy to bat for him last month too, when the NHS declared a £1bn deficit, while he was holed up 300 yards away in his HQ Richmond House.
Today Labour shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander demanded his presence in the Commons just nine days before the strike.
She told Speaker John Bercow: “Today was the second day in two months you granted me a urgent question to the Secretary of State for Health and it’s the second time he hasn’t bothered to turn up.
“Can you give me some advice on whether it would be normally expected for the Secretary of State to attend the chamber when an urgent question is put by their counterpart?
“Could you also give me some advice as to how we get the Secretary of State out of his bunker in Richmond House to answer legitimate questions?”
Mr Bercow said he was powerless to force the Health Secretary to answer questions – and joked he had no idea where he was.
He added: “I hope whatever he’s doing, he’s enjoying himself.”
Tens of thousands of junior doctors will walk out on December 1, 8 and 16 after they said Mr Hunt’s 11% pay rise was really a pay cut.
Medics are losing valuable overtime payments for 27 hours a week because 7-10pm and Saturdays are being classed as ‘sociable hours’.
Despite 98% of medics who voted backing the strike, Health Minister Alistair Burt – who stood in for his boss – insisted the British Medical Association was to blame for quitting negotiations.
He warned 50,000 to 60,000 operations will be cancelled or delayed for each strike day and ‘scaremongering’ warnings about a terror attack during the walkout were reasonable.
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