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Here’s what most doctors think of Jeremy Hunt, I reckon [Image: Sean Hansford/MEN].

It is hard to give any credence at all to Jeremy Hunt’s Twitter thread on his claims about mental health care in the National Health Service.

The current debate started when the health secretary failed to respond positively after Professor Stephen Hawking challenged him to a live television debate.

The issue then was Professor Hawking’s claim that Mr Hunt cherry-picked statistics to suit his narrative – for example, with his claim that a “weekend effect” caused an increase in the number of NHS patient deaths. This claim was subsequently proved false.

So actor Ralf Little took up the baton, offering to debate Mr Hunt on television, in place of Professor Hawking, and claiming that Mr Hunt had “knowingly lied” when he said he had overseen the “biggest expansion of mental health provision in Europe”.

It seems Mr Hunt has chosen to respond to Mr Little – not by accepting the challenge, but in kind – with a lengthy Twitter thread in which he quotes statistics (selectively?) in support of his claims.

It is more than a week since Mr Little posted his own thread. Why the delay? Was Mr Hunt waiting for his aides to come up with statistics that would support him? In that case, he’ll be guilty of cherry-picking again.

Let’s have a quick reminder of Mr Hunt’s record as health secretary, with this infographic from the end of last year:


And, has he convinced anyone with his current argument?

Let’s consider what he has to say (with some tweet-specific replies thrown in – and I apologise for the repetition of some tweets; Mr Hunt has a very strange way of constructing his thread):

Notice that Mr Hunt begins by setting out the claim, then goes straight into a put-down. Ralf Little has acted in comedy, certainly – that doesn’t make him a “funny bloke” and if he chooses to tackle a serious subject then he deserves to be treated seriously. And Mr Little did not trade any insults – he made an assertion and provided factual information to support it.

An increase in staff is not necessarily an increase in doctors and nurses, though.

So, even if we take Mr Hunt’s word on the numbers, less than half these new staff are fully-qualified – and qualified in what, exactly? Mr Hunt says nothing to suggest that they are qualified medical practitioners specialising in mental health care.

Nurses in training do not equal an expansion in MH provision now – and an increase in nurse training places does not mean that candidates will step up to fill those places, especially as it now costs a considerable amount of money to train as a nurse.

21,000 posts? What kind of posts? And – let’s remember – plans do not always become reality.

Hang on – he states that spending went up last year, and this has delivered notable improvements in MH “in the last seven years”. How was this achieved? Time travel?

Let’s consider some of the general replies to Mr Hunt’s thread:

So what do you think? Is Mr Hunt credible?

I would suggest that he is not.


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