Scandal over Hunt’s ‘deaths’ claim in support of a ‘seven-day NHS’ that WE ALREADY HAVE

A scandal has erupted over figures used by Jeremy Hunt to support his claim that a ‘seven-day NHS’ was needed – on the day David Cameron tried to ridicule Jeremy Corbyn for supporting doctors.

Cameron repeatedly claimed that he supports Hunt’s desire for a ‘seven-day NHS’ during Prime Minister’s Questions – despite the fact that the United Kingdom already has a fully-functioning, seven-day-a-week National Health Service. If you need healthcare on a Sunday, you’ll get it.

Clearly the PR-conscious PM has lost whatever good judgement he had – and one wonders whether he would have been as vocal in his support for Hunt if he had paid more attention to the scandal that the BBC has uncovered.

It seems Jeremy Hunt used unverified and unpublished information to support his claim that a ‘seven-day NHS’ was needed – and then “leaned on” government officers to make them backtrack and “fudge” an explanation when this was exposed.

You see, ministers are only allowed to quote data that is freely available. This information wasn’t – and was subsequently superceded.

Following on from this, we now have evidence that the Conservative Government offers up lies in response to Freedom of Information requests.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt used academically unverified and unpublished data to back his plans for a seven-day NHS in England, the BBC understands.

Last July, in the pay row with junior doctors, Mr Hunt said there were about 6,000 deaths a year because of the lack of “a proper seven-day service”.

A spokesman said the information had been shared with the department by the NHS’s medical director for England, Sir Bruce Keogh.

Labour is calling for an investigation into whether Mr Hunt leaned on his department in order to cover up his advance sight of the study.

Last July, Mr Hunt said: “Around 6,000 people lose their lives every year because we do not have a proper seven-day service in hospitals.”

This figure was then used regularly by the government in its argument for changes to doctors’ contracts.

Emails from NHS England reveal Mr Hunt knew details of the sensitive study into weekend deaths at least two months before it was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and based the 6,000 figure on his understanding of the data.

When the BBC asked NHS England and the Department of Health for the source of the 6,000 figure, neither was able to answer.

The UK Statistics Authority then wrote to NHS England, reminding the department that “data mentioned publicly by ministers should be available equally to all users”.

Look at this [boldings mine]:

An email released under the Freedom of Information Act, written by NHS England’s Seven Day Services Forum project manager Deborah Williams to one of the BMJ study authors, said: “We were challenged to cite the source of the 6,000 figure and attempted to offer up the most bland statement possible, that would neither confirm not contradict [Mr Hunt’s] statement.”

Despicable. But did Hunt apply coercion to secure this co-operation?

The study author, Domenico Pagano, refused to corroborate Mr Hunt’s use of the figures, saying: “It will be inaccurate and counterproductive to quote that our analysis is due to be published in the BMJ shortly, as this is not the case and may seem to interfere with the peer review process.”

When finally published in September 2015, the research actually suggested there were 11,000 excess deaths per year as a result of the “weekend effect” – although the authors pointed out this could not be proven to be linked to staffing levels.

This is accurate. Instead, it has been shown that the 11,000 deaths were more likely to have happened because people with serious illnesses had been reluctant to seek help than because of staffing issues.

A separate string of emails seen by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act shows officials at Whitehall and NHS England then backtracked, using a combination of figures already in the public domain from 2009 and 2012 to attempt to provide an explanation for the 6,000 excess deaths claim. NHS England then published this in a “low-key fashion” on their website on 6 August.

One official at the Department of Health wrote to another at NHS England explaining the fudge, saying: “I am keen to avoid undue criticism of either [the Department of Health] or NHS England’.

More fudged death statistics from the Conservative Government. Remember the fudged figures relating to the deaths of people on sickness benefits?

NHS England has now admitted Mr Hunt had had advance sight of “headline figures” of the BMJ study prior to it being accepted for publication.

This is despite NHS England’s Freedom of Information Officer saying in October last year: “Sir Bruce Keogh did not discuss the study’s findings with anyone at the Department of Health at any point before or after the publication of this article.”

This is proof that the Conservative Government lies in response to Freedom of Information requests.

Labour shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said: “This is an extremely serious state of affairs given the weight attached to these figures by the health secretary in justifying changes to junior doctors’ contracts.

“Rather than admitting the source of the figures, it seems that civil servants had to cobble together a post-hoc rationalisation for Jeremy Hunt’s sound bites.

“There now needs to be a full investigation about whether pressure was put upon officials and whether the health secretary was involved.”

Yes, indeed – an independent investigation.

Source: Junior doctors’ row: Hunt’s 6,000 deaths claim ‘was unverified’ – BBC News

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9 thoughts on “Scandal over Hunt’s ‘deaths’ claim in support of a ‘seven-day NHS’ that WE ALREADY HAVE

  1. David Anthony Penson

    These simplistic , uneducated , Suits and Accounting jobs worth’s are an embarrassment to our society , trying to run our once proud Nation like some cut price corner shop, enough to give anybody a Brain Haemorrhage.
    Disgusting People .
    David Penson. Bracknell Berkshire

  2. John

    No matter how convincing a Tory minister sounds in the Commons – it’s just as well I don’t believe a word of it – even IF they ARE right !

  3. Tim

    The lights in the hospitals may be on but we really don’t have a seven day NHS, Mike. Every doctor’s surgery in the town where I live closes at weekends and no surgery is conducted in any hospital in the county where I live on Saturday or Sunday. Every hospital operates with a skeleton staff hereabouts every weekend and, factually, more people admitted to hospitals at weekends, where I live, die proportionately than weekday admissions.

    The NHS is NOT a 24-hour-a- day seven-day-a-week service.

    It IS worse in the evenings, at night, and at weekends.

    I hate Hunt but pretending the NHS is better than it is won’t pass muster.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Are you saying you don’t have an out-of-hours service in the town where you live? Jeremy Hunt isn’t proposing 24-hour GP surgeries in any case.
      As for surgery being conducted on a weekend – if it’s an emergency, the patient will go on an operating table no matter what time of day it is.
      I personally have undergone surgery on a weekend and Mrs Mike did so in the very recent past.
      Mine was an emergency, my other half’s was a scheduled operation. Obviously, scheduled operations are more likely to take place during the normal working week and not in the middle of the night, as will GP appointments – that’s why the resources are more concentrated in what we might call the normal working day (although my local GP surgery is open from 8am until 6.30pm, which is a VERY long working day).
      The NHS is indeed a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service. You are complaining because it apportions its resources appropriately to the level at which they are likely to be needed.
      Regarding your local services – that is an issue for you to take up with your local trust. It is NOT a complaint with the NHS nationally, and should not be confused with Hunt’s proposals.

  4. Tim

    Well, when my elderly mother was admitted to hospital with a suspected kidney infection on a Saturday, we were queued in A & E for seven hours before she was seen. She was, some four hours later, transferred to a ward (where the exhausted nurses and health care workers were nearing the end of their 12-hour shifts), and complained of abdominal pains. After an hour one of the nurses told me she had summoned a doctor – “Not one of ours,” she said, whatever that means – who hadn’t arrived three hours later at which point I was ushered from the ward and had to leave my aged Mum alone. I was told that, “This wouldn’t happen on a weekday when the consultants walked the wards.” To me that isn’t a 24/7 service in which people in need are treated equably no matter on which day or what hour they fall ill.

    Hunt is right.

    His lies and methods are wrong.

    The NHS needs more staff working shorter shifts to provide the quality service we all want and so, ultimately, MORE money needs to be spent.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your example is an issue to do with your local trust – not the NHS nationally.
      Hunt is NOT right.

  5. Malcolm MacINTYRE-READ

    Mike, as a previous member of our local surgery Patients Panel, and having spent 3 years seeking the experiences of local people with local health and care services, I fully agree with you that Tim’s situation, appalling as it is, is a matter for the local trust, as the competence and services of Trusts vary across the country.

    But with Hunt’s lies and our Dave’s PR rubbishy, they will use such local issues as examples of the national situation.

Comments are closed.