Tag Archives: Stephen Hawking

Jeremy Hunt is playing with words when he could be having an adult discussion about healthcare, says Ralf Little

Ralf Little was talking about his dialogue with Jeremy Hunt in an interview conducated by James O’Brien on LBC.

Actor – and former medical student – Ralf Little appeared on radio to repeat his appeal for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take part in a live-broadcast debate with him about the state of the NHS.

Mr Hunt had previously challenged Mr Little, on Twitter, to prove his claim that the Health Secretary had “knowingly” lied to the public using inaccurate statistics, in an interview on The Andrew Marr Show.

Talking with James O’Brien on LBC, Mr Little said: “In hindsight that was probably a regrettable choice of words.”

But he said he still wanted to debate the facts – in the name of transparency.

Mr Hunt, on the other hand, has become reticent. His claim is that he only challenged Mr Little to a debate because the other man had said he “knowingly” lied, and would not take part in such an event on any other terms.

“It’s getting extremely semantic and… extremely technical, and it may even be legally sound,” said Mr Little. “But what it feels like is, this man who’s a clever politician… is obfuscating and avoiding a serious discussion about the NHS, and mental health, and the future of the NHS, off the basis of a semantic argument and a technical argument, and I don’t think that’s reasonable.”

Mr Little said he had debunked two of Hunt’s claims and actually bolstered one, the health secretary having undersold his achievement.

Little told James O’Brien he couldn’t believe the Tory had tried to dispute Hawking’s cherrypicking claim: “Literally, his job is to analyse evidence and use that to theorise the most extraordinary things that most of us can’t comprehend.

“If anyone knows what cherrypicking statistics is, and how evidence works, it’s Stephen Hawking. If he’s telling you you’re getting it wrong, you listen. Surely?”

He said: “Where the problem comes is going, ‘Everything’s going really well,’ and it’s simply not true or it’s certainly not the full story… It’s the NHS. We need to know what’s going on with it… We need to know it’s not being privatised on the quiet.

“Again, something I’d like to ask the man.”

Here’s the full interview:

It seems to This Writer that Mr Little has a very strong point.

It doesn’t matter whether Mr Hunt “knowingly” lied or inadvertently quoted false figures – the end result is the same.

We can’t allow ourselves to believe a word he says.

Maybe he doesn’t want to clear that up.

If so, that might be a worse stain on his character.

Source: Ralf Little Explains The Twitter Row Between Him, Jeremy Hunt And Stephen Hawking – LBC


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Jeremy Hunt responds to Little’s lesson on mental health – but is he credible?

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.

https://twitter.com/wendaville/status/932719930813894657

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:

https://twitter.com/Daniellemalaur1/status/932620529693052928

https://twitter.com/David_Hesford/status/932671407623897089

https://twitter.com/tania_linden/status/932684574823415808

So what do you think? Is Mr Hunt credible?

I would suggest that he is not.


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Actor Ralf Little’s lesson for Jeremy Hunt on mental health provision

Ralf Little: Because, let’s face it, you don’t want to see another gurning photo of Jeremy Hunt.

It seems clear our entertainers are sick of sharing the media with lying Tories.

Here’s Ralf Little, reminding Jeremy Hunt of the facts about mental health in no uncertain terms – and not only does he put the Health Secretary firmly in his fact-doctoring place, he goes on to propose that he accept the challenge Mr Hunt laid down to Professor Stephen Hawking, for a public debate on the subject.

What a put-down!

See, by issuing the challenge, Mr Hunt was claiming he knows better about science than the man we accept to be the UK’s smartest scientist.

By offering to accept the challenge for Professor Hawking, Mr Little is saying Hunt can be beaten by an actor with no advanced skills in either science in general or medicine in particular (I accept I may be doing Mr Little a disservice here, as I know nothing about his education).

I doubt Mr Hunt will accept the challenge; he has too much to lose.

But I would certainly watch the debate.

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/924636074231717888

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https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930140578213449728


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Actor Ralf Little schools Jeremy Hunt on mental health provision

Ralf Little: Because, let’s face it, you don’t want to see another gurning photo of Jeremy Hunt.

It seems clear our entertainers are sick of sharing the media with lying Tories.

Here’s Ralf Little, reminding Jeremy Hunt of the facts about mental health in no uncertain terms – and not only does he put the Health Secretary firmly in his fact-doctoring place, he goes on to propose that he accept the challenge Mr Hunt laid down to Professor Stephen Hawking, for a public debate on the subject.

What a put-down!

See, by issuing the challenge, Mr Hunt was claiming he knows better about science than the man we accept to be the UK’s smartest scientist.

By offering to accept the challenge for Professor Hawking, Mr Little is saying Hunt can be beaten by an actor with no advanced skills in either science in general or medicine in particular (I accept I may be doing Mr Little a disservice here, as I know nothing about his education).

I doubt Mr Hunt will accept the challenge; he has too much to lose.

But I would certainly watch the debate.

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/924636074231717888

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930128900629368832

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930129192292966401

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930129481326620672

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930131874319601664

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930132506388688896

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930132743811489793

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https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930138903297871879

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https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930139292692893701

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930139626811125760

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930139784370118657

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930140104563286018

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930140405043269633

https://twitter.com/RalfLittle/status/930140578213449728


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Jeremy Hunt has talked himself into a hole – and is digging for all he’s worth

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

Everybody reading this will be familiar with the expression, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” If only Jeremy Hunt would take that advice!

In the latest round of his ongoing dispute with Professor Stephen Hawking, Mr Hunt has tried to defend his claims about NHS spending – and failed.

He has also tried to defend his claims about falling numbers of people taking out private medical insurance – and failed.

Worst of all, he has tried to say he has not cherry-picked evidence in order to make a false claim about weekend deaths – by devising a new definition of cherry-picking.

Take a look at his words, taken from his own latest Guardian article:

He does not deny that it has record funding or record numbers of doctors and nurses, but describes these as a “distraction”. Such figures surely are crucial evidence if he is arguing, as he did last weekend in a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine, that the direction of the NHS is heading towards a US-style insurance system. Such systems – which he seems to now concede are not government policy – rely on individuals, and not the state, paying for their healthcare. If that was the direction of travel, the state would be spending less, not more, on the NHS.

But Professor Hawking has already stated that “record funding is not the same thing as adequate funding”.

We are all aware of Noam Chomsky’s description of the standard technique of privatisation, aren’t we? “Defund” – meaning, fail to provide enough funding – “make sure things don’t work” – and Mr Hunt has admitted he does not “think everything is working well in the NHS” – “people get angry” – like Professor Hawking – “you hand it over to private capital”.

How much of that “record” funding is going towards private companies? Some of that money will be handed out to shareholders as profit, meaning it serves no useful purpose in the provision of care. But it all counts as privatisation of health care.

So: Mr Hunt’s “record” funding isn’t enough, especially as a large proportion of it is funding the profits of private health – and the service is suffering, which means it is well on the way to privatisation according to Mr Chomsky’s pattern.

Likewise, more individuals would be taking out private medical insurance – again, the opposite is the case. Although there was indeed a small rise last year, overall there has been a dramatic drop in private medical insurance since 2009.

If there was a rise in the number of individuals taking out private medical insurance last year, then Professor Hawking is right to say that more individuals are taking out private medical insurance. Anybody can make figures say what they want by choosing an arbitrary starting date. Why not say, “There has been a rise in private health insurance since 2015”?

I do not accept his comments about the misuse of statistics, although inevitably in the heat of an industrial relations dispute there will be many such accusations hurled from both sides. To decide that one piece of research is the most credible is not “cherrypicking”, as Hawking suggested – it is doing what you have to do when researchers disagree.

If researchers disagree, then the evidence is not conclusive and no decision can be made. “To decide that one piece of research is the most credible” is exactly “cherrypicking” – it is citing one study but suppressing others in order to support a political policy, as Professor Hawking stated in his original Guardian article.

Finally, we have this:

But regardless of which research you back, none of us can bury our heads in the sand on the issues surrounding weekend care in hospitals. Most doctors in their hearts would rather a loved one was admitted mid-week than at the weekend.

And who said Jeremy Hunt could speak for “most doctors”?

The last time This Writer checked, “most doctors” had spent most of a year holding industrial action against Mr Hunt because of his attempts to speak for them on the subject of their pay and conditions of work.

And what research has Mr Hunt carried out? Since we’re discussing scientific evidence, with how many doctors did he discuss this matter?

Or, returning to the fact that he has dug himself into a hole, is Mr Hunt pulling his claim from another hole that he happens to have on his person?


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After Hunt attacked over NHS privatisation, we all knew Hawking wouldn’t let it lie

[Image: @Rachael_Swindon on Twitter.]

Picture the scene if you can: Professor Stephen Hawking reading Jeremy Hunt’s smear piece against his concerns about the NHS and then, in calm, voice-synthesized tones, uttering: “So he wants to play hardball, does he? Fine.”

Professor Hawking has written a response in The Guardian, expanding on his original points:

That Mr Hunt misrepresented scientific research in order to claim that poorer hospital care and staffing at weekends cause excess deaths.

That Mr Hunt’s claim of record NHS funding is a distraction as it does not show that funding is adequate.

And that all the evidence shows a move towards a US-style, privatised, health insurance system, whether the minority Conservative government wants it or not.

It seems unlikely that Mr Hunt will back down. It also seems likely that he will face renewed calls to defend his claims, in person, on the floor of the House of Commons.

That will be comedy gold – although, considering the state of disrepair into which he has allowed the NHS to fall, it will be gallows humour.

Hunt doesn’t deny that he dismissed research contradicting his claim of excess deaths due to poorer hospital care and staffing at the weekend. He admits he relied on one paper by Professor Nick Freemantle and colleagues. But even if one accepts its disputed findings, the authors explicitly warn that “to assume these excess deaths are avoidable would be rash and misleading”. The editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, wrote to Hunt to reprimand him for publicly misrepresenting the Freemantle et al paper. As a patient who has spent a lot of time in hospital, I would welcome improved services at the weekend. For this, we need a scientific assessment of the benefits of a seven-day service and of the resources required, not misrepresentation of research.

Hunt’s statement that funding and the number of doctors and nurses are at an all-time high is a distraction. Record funding is not the same thing as adequate funding. There is overwhelming evidence that NHS funding and the numbers of doctors and nurses are inadequate, and it is getting worse.

Hunt misquoted me, saying that I claimed the government wants a US-style insurance system. What I said was that the direction is towards a US-style insurance system, run by private companies. The increasing involvement of private health companies in the NHS is evidence for this. Hunt chose to highlight – dare I say, cherry-pick – the fact that private companies’ share of NHS contracts rose 0.1% over the last year. This is an anomaly among the data since 2006. The NHS private providers’ share was 2.8% in 2006-7 and rose steadily to 7.6% in 2015/16. The amount of private health insurance has fallen since 2009 as Hunt said, but that is because of the financial crash. We can conclude nothing about health policy from this and in any case, it is now increasing again. As waiting times increase, private companies report an increase in self-pay where patients pay directly for care such as hip and knee replacements.

Further evidence that the direction is towards a US-style system is that the NHS in England is undergoing a complete reorganisation into 44 regions with the aim of each being run as an “accountable care organisation” (Aco). An Aco is a variant of a type of US system called a health maintenance organisation in which all services are provided in a network of hospitals and clinics all run by the HMO company. It is reasonable to expect the powerful US HMO companies such as Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth will be bidding for the huge contracts to run these ACOs when they go out to international tender. Hunt referenced Kaiser Permanente as a model for the future budgetary arrangements in the NHS at the Commons health select committee in May 2016.

Source: Jeremy Hunt can attack me all he wants – but he is wrong to say the NHS is working | Stephen Hawking | Opinion | The Guardian


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Jeremy Hunt challenged to take part in TV debate with Stephen Hawking over the NHS

Will Jeremy Hunt go into hiding to avoid appearing in a TV debate with Professor Hawking – as he once hid behind a tree to avoid being seen going to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been challenged to appear in a televised debate on NHS statistics and the future of the service.

He would be opposed by Professor Stephen Hawking, whose claims about the Conservative minority government’s plans for the NHS were attacked by Mr Hunt on Twitter over the weekend.

Here’s the challenge:

This Writer is particularly pleased that doctors are taking this step. As I stated in my article on the subject, on Saturday (August 19):

“Let’s see the Health Secretary prove his claims against the kind of forensic examination that the world’s greatest living physicist can provide.

“And let’s have it televised. How about it, BBC?”

Well? How about it, Mr Hunt?

Of course we don’t believe him! Jeremy Hunt is a liar – and a fool, if he thinks anybody else is stupid enough to be persuaded by his lies.

His “weekend effect” argument is particularly weak because – as has already been proved, he really did cherry-pick his evidence, as Stephen Hawking stated in his Guardian article.

Professor Hawking, who has Motor Neurone Disease and has, therefore, enjoyed considerable experience of the NHS since 1962, makes the point that it is unscientific to base an argument for anything on only part of the evidence that is available; science demands a solution that encompasses all the evidence.

Mr Hunt’s response was to make an evidenceless claim about the 2015 Fremantle study.

Source: Hunt v Hawking on the future of the NHS: Who do you believe? | Vox Political


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Hunt v Hawking on the future of the NHS: Who do you believe?

You’ve got to believe Jeremy Hunt, right?

He is the Health Secretary, after all. He’s the man responsible for planning the future of the National Health Service. He should know whether the NHS is being run down to make way for a US-style health insurance system.

And we all know he takes his responsibility as a Conservative cabinet minister extremely seriously and would never lie to the public – right?

So when he says more money is being spent on the NHS than ever before, we believe him – right?

When he says he was right about the number of deaths increasing because of a so-called “weekend effect”, we believe him – right?

And when he says there are no plans to replace the NHS with a privately-run health system in which the public relies on private health insurance to pay for their treatment, we believe him on that as well – right?

NO!

Of course we don’t believe him! Jeremy Hunt is a liar – and a fool, if he thinks anybody else is stupid enough to be persuaded by his lies.

His “weekend effect” argument is particularly weak because – as has already been proved, he really did cherry-pick his evidence, as Stephen Hawking stated in his Guardian article.

Professor Hawking, who has Motor Neurone Disease and has, therefore, enjoyed considerable experience of the NHS since 1962, makes the point that it is unscientific to base an argument for anything on only part of the evidence that is available; science demands a solution that encompasses all the evidence.

Mr Hunt’s response was to make an evidenceless claim about the 2015 Fremantle study. This will be the report rubbished in an article referenced above.

Professor Hawking added: “This problem goes beyond the weekend effect. The NHS is in a crisis, and one that has been created by political decisions. These political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on junior doctors, and removal of the student nurses’ bursary. Political decisions such as these cause reductions in care quality, longer waiting lists, anxiety for patients and staff, and dangerous staff shortages. Failures in the system of privatised social care for disabled and elderly people have placed an additional burden on the NHS.”

Mr Hunt, who co-authored a book demanding that the NHS must be privatised, provided this response:

Guess what? Nobody believed him.

Peter Stefanovic, author of the put-down above, sums it up very well in this video:

But let’s hammer the point home with a few more comments:

This Writer hopes someone on the Opposition benches has the presence of mind to call Mr Hunt to account for his lies in the Commons chamber.

Let’s see the Health Secretary prove his claims against the kind of forensic examination that the world’s greatest living physicist can provide.

And let’s have it televised. How about it, BBC?

Jeremy Hunt has accused Stephen Hawking of a “pernicious” lie after the physicist said it seemed the Tories were steering the UK towards a US-style health insurance system.

Hours after the health secretary was criticised for claiming Hawking was wrong in the row about the government’s seven-day NHS plan, he leapt back into the fray with two tweets defending the Conservative party’s record on the health service.

Hunt was responding to criticism from the renowned 75-year-old physicist and author of A Brief History of Time ahead of a speech at the Royal Society of Medicine on Saturday.

In the speech, Hawking will accuse the health secretary of “cherrypicking” favourable evidence while suppressing contradictory research to suit his argument.

In a Guardian opinion piece published on Friday, Hawking also criticised the power of profit-seeking multinationals, which he said had contributed to the inequalities rife in the US healthcare system.

“We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a US-style insurance system,” he wrote.

Source: Jeremy Hunt accuses Stephen Hawking of ‘pernicious falsehood’ in NHS row | Politics | The Guardian


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