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MPs criticise Hunt for unclear plans on seven day NHS and “attacks” on NHS staff, but others praise him

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 15 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4948
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

MPs have voiced serious doubts about the approach of England’s health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in dealing with the medical profession over the government’s aim for a seven day a week NHS.

During a two and a half hour debate in Westminster Hall at parliament on 14 September, critics said that he had thrown a “grenade” into his dealings with doctors, while supporters described him as being honourable and deeply passionate about the safety of patients.

Hunt did not join the debate, which was prompted by an online petition ( calling for him to be subject to a vote of no confidence by MPs. So far more than 220 500 people have signed the petition, which says, “Jeremy Hunt has alienated the entire workforce of the NHS by threatening to impose a harsh contract and conditions on first consultants and soon the rest of the NHS staff.” The petition was sparked after Hunt gave a speech on 16 July in which he spoke of his intention to force the NHS to change to provide a truly seven days a week service and for a seven day rota for hospital consultants.1

Opening the debate, Helen Jones, chair of the House of Commons petitions committee and Labour MP for Warrington North, said that the topic for debate had been amended to focus on contracts and conditions in the NHS, because the committee did not have the power to call for a vote of no confidence.

Jones emphasised how stretched the NHS and its staff were at present, saying, “It is a long time since I last saw dedicated doctors, nurses, and ancillary staff so demoralised and, sometimes, despairing.

“NHS staff have …

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