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Jeremy Hunt in row with Professor Stephen Hawking over future of NHS

Jeremy Hunt has accused Professor Stephen Hawking of ‘pernicious falsehoods’ in a new row which has broken out following the professor’s comments on seven-day services over the weekend.

In comments made at the Talk NHS debate on the current and future state of the NHS, the professor said that the NHS crisis has been caused by ‘political decisions’, including ‘underfunding, the public sector pay cap, outsourcing and privatisation' and the drive for seven-day services.

The health secretary has responded in a series of tweets in which he said that ‘there is no evidence to support Professor Hawking’s claims about the NHS’ and asked if it is ‘too much for him to look at the evidence.’

The professor said that the ' most humane and civilized system' is one in which all people are provided for equally, based only on their needs, and we must 'prevent the establishment of a two-tier system with the best medicine for the wealthy, and an inferior service for the rest.’

He said it was 'frustrating... when everything slows down at the weekend in hospital', adding 'in principle, a seven-day service could be of benefit to patients, and to the NHS as a whole'.

However, he added: 'Any change like this must be properly researched and evidence presented... There has been no proper due diligence done in the case of the so called seven-day NHS, and the evidence is not supported by reliable research.

‘Speaking as a scientist, cherry picking evidence is unacceptable. When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others, to justify policies that they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture.’

But responding to the criticism, Jeremy Hunt tweeted: ‘Stephen Hawking is brilliant physicist but wrong on lack of evidence 4 weekend effect. 2015 Fremantle study most comprehensive ever.

‘And whatever entrenched opposition, no responsible health sec could ignore it if you want NHS 2 be safest health service in world as I do.’

However, the Lancet study to which Mr Hunt referenced had concluded: 'Together, these findings suggest that the weekend effect arises from patient-level differences at admission rather than reduced hospital staffing or services.’

A DH spokesperson said: ‘This Government is fully committed to a world class NHS free at the point of the use now and in the future.

‘That’s why we’re backing it with an extra £8bn of investment over the next five years.

‘The Commonwealth Fund has ranked the NHS as the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system out of 11 wealthy nations.’

But Justin Madders MP, shadow minister for health, responded: ‘It doesn’t take a genius to work out the Tories are wrecking the NHS. Professor Hawking has given us answers to many of the universe’s most challenging questions and even he can’t work out why Jeremy Hunt is still in his job.'

Readers' comments (9)

  • Vinci Ho

    Ha ha ha
    Love your vocabulary, Agent Hunt
    Penance for GP contract 2004
    Pernicious for Professor Hawking

    This is mine for you : Duplicitous

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  • AlanAlmond

    Is there anybody (other than his mother) who doesn't think JH is a t&£t?

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  • Shows what sort of a man JH is. Completely clueless and more spin. I wouldn't take on Prof Hawking Mr Hunt, you wouldn't stand a chance.

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  • What an arrogant man. A politician trying to fight an academic on papers and the politician thinks he can win with his lies.

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  • Hunt isn't stupid. He's calculating and deliberate. He's the hatchet man for the Torys and their friends, and he's been the most 'successful' (at implementing the unpopular Tory policies) Health Secretary we've seen. Too many people are underestimating him, and we're losing ...badly.

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  • Raucous arrogant politician accusing a scholar of 'lack of evidence' while he spurns yarns about how great the NHS is doing. Is it mere stupidity or total ignorance. If you know not that you know not, thy name is Hunt.

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  • Prof Hawking finds super dense black hole. Then has a debate about the NHS with him. The facts are sucked into oblivion and disappear forever. Public still being kept in the dark matter. Or should that be a different colour?

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  • Fewer people having private insurance is a sign the economy is struggling and adds more pressure on the NHS. Activity is always up treating more patients than ever but funding not keeping up with activity. As practices struggle to recruit demand just grows until the tipping point is reached. The new junior contract in trainees is already impacting capacity as GP day is 8am to 6:30 yet trainees not allowed to cover that time to reflect real practice. I am in favour of working a 40 hour week but that would need more personnel and capacity particularly if the push for 7 day Primary Care continues.

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  • Hunt must inhabit a parallel Universe.

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