Mr Hulme said: “We have seen a significant increase in consultants at the weekend and there is no evidence at the moment that there is a significant clinical risk at the weekend or indeed at night at Ipswich Hospital”.

Around 6,000 lives are lost a year because of a lack of senior staff on Saturdays and Sundays.

HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt was accused yesterday of launching a “wholesale attack on doctors” following threats to enforce new seven-day contracts if they did not agree to work more weekends.

“We’re not asking any doctor to work longer hours and we’re not asking any doctor to work unsafe hours, and we want to put protections in to make sure that happens”.

His move to rip up their contracts sets up a bruising clash with the powerful British Medical Association. The contract was last negotiated by Labour in 2003.

The BMA hit back at the announcement, saying the ultimatum amounted to a “wholesale attack on doctors”.

“I’ve yet to meet a consultant who would be happy for their relative to be admitted on a weekend”, he said.

In a speech to the King’s Fund in central London, Mr Hunt said: “Be in no doubt: if we can’t negotiate, we are ready to impose a new contract”.

“No one could possibly say that this was a system built around the needs of patients – and yet when I pointed this out to the BMA they told me to ‘get real.’ I simply say to the doctors union that I can give them 6,000 reasons why they, not I, need to ‘get real.'”.

The current arrangement allows senior doctors to opt out of working weekends although they are expected to be on call.

Mr Hunt also promised a new “no blame” system to learn from mistakes, based on the Air Accident Investigation Branch.

In addition, hospital trusts deemed to be in financial difficulty will be given a cap on agency staff spending, while all consultancy contracts over £50,000 will need to be approved centrally.

But ministers are furious about the refusal of the BMA to fall into line with what was a key Tory manifesto pledge.

Top doctors have been told they must kiss goodbye to the weekends off culture that contributes to thousands of deaths every year.

In a report in 2013, the Commons public accounts committee savaged the contract, saying it had resulted in “nonsense”.

And Russ McLean, chairman of East Lancashire Patient Voices Group, has slammed Mr Hunt for “yet again trying to score points with the health service”.

AN East Lancashire health campaigner has described as appalling the government’s plans to force hospital doctors into providing a seven-days-a-week service.

“Hospitals like Northumbria that have instituted seven-day working have seen staff morale transformed as a result”. Eight in ten fear that weekday services will be cut.

The professional codes for nurses and doctors are fit for goal – but further work should be done to provide incentives to ensure all staff are more open, the medical director of NHS England has reported.