Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has finally responded to the petition, launched by doctors and receiving 200,000 signatures calling for his resignation, by arguing history would prove him right on seven-day NHS.
The Parliament.uk petition claimed that Mr Hunt had ‘alienated the entire workforce of the NHS’ with his threats to impose a contract on consultants, and called for a vote of no confidence by Parliament in the health secretary.
The petition was debated in Westminster Hall yesterday focusing on ‘contracts and conditions in the NHS’, although Mr Hunt did not attend.
However, called to a hearing with the House of Commons health committee today, Mr Hunt said he was ‘very confident’ that his seven-day NHS reforms would actually lead to improved morale among doctors as they realise that actually ‘it was the right thing to do’.
He said: ‘In the end that is how you transform morale… by facing up to problems and not running away from them, and I think doctors and nurses are inspired with the vision of an NHS delivering high-quality care and a Government supporting them to do that…
But Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South, said: ‘The last time I looked there was a petition with 220,565 people asking you to resign. I wonder how many more ought to sign it before you might consider it?’
Mr Hunt replied: ‘When you’re asking doctors to change their contracts in order to deliver higher-quality care, of course that is going to be controversial, but in the end I have not met a doctor who doesn’t think we should be offering seven-day services in the NHS, who doesn’t want to deliver the safest possible care.
‘And I am very confident that when the issue dies down people will say “well actually, this was a difficult thing to do but it was the right thing to do because as a result, we are delivering safer care for patients”.’
Yesterday’s petition debate saw GPs told they needed to be ‘more flexible’ on seven-day working as it was necessary both to reduce pressure on hospitals and for busy patients’ convenience.