Jeremy Hunt is a facing a growing backlash over his comments during a speech on the National Health Service last week in which he essentially gave doctors an ultimatum to get on board with seven-day working.
The Health Secretary pointed to data showing that patients admitted to hospitals over the weekend are 15% more likely to die than those coming in during the week, and claimed he had not met a single hospital consultant “who would be happy for their own family to be admitted on a weekend”.
Moreover, he threatened to impose a new contract for doctors if negotiations to support plans for seven-day working to end the “monday to friday” culture in some areas of the NHS are unsuccessful.
The British Medical Association immediately slammed his “wholesale attack” on doctors and claimed the move was nothing more than the government trying to “distract from its refusal to invest properly in emergency care”, while the Royal College of General Practitioners said it feared GPs would be next in the firing line “even though we are already being pushed to our limits in trying to provide a safe five-day service for our patients”.
Now, an online petition started by Dorset GP Matthew Green is gathering force, with nearly 2,500 signatures from UK doctors who would be “willing and happy for a family member to be admitted to an NHS hospital at the weekend”.
One signatory commented: “It’s not the doctors themselves that are a barrier to seven-day working. It’s the increasing numbers we need to treat,” and asked “how thinly can a finite number of doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc. be stretched, with the lack of NHS investment, closure of support services and underfunding of social care?”, while others accused the health secretary of being “out of touch” and making “misleading statements”.
NHS staff are also taking to Twitter to voice their objections to Hunts comments on seven-day working under the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy, posting photos of themselves at work over the weekend, while a letter written by a junior doctor to Prime Minister David Cameron challenging the notion that consultants don’t work on the weekend and his plans for the NHS has now been shared on Facebook more than 147,000 as of this morning.