Intended for healthcare professionals


A seven day NHS

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 02 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1248
  1. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
  1. The BMJ
  1. fgodlee{at}

Confrontational micromanagement has turned this reasonable idea into a battleground

Little could the Conservative party have imagined that its manifesto promise of a “truly seven day NHS”1 would end up fuelling one of the bitterest disputes between a government and the medical profession since the founding of the NHS.

In the thick of this dispute is an article published in The BMJ last year showing excess mortality in patients admitted at weekends.2 Did the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in a speech attacking senior doctors for resisting a new seven day contract,3 use data from the article before it was published? If so, how did he get the data? Who commissioned the study? And did the subsequent media attention subvert The BMJ’s editorial process? These questions have been put to the journal and raised in parliament.4 5 In order to understand who knew what and when, we asked our reporter Abi Rimmer to investigate.

Rimmer reviewed emails obtained through freedom of information requests and spoke to the main protagonists: the authors of The BMJ article, NHS England, the Department of Health, and The BMJ editor who handled the article. The picture was not always clear, even apparently to those directly involved. …

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