Hunt versus Hawking

Verbal assault at dawn; world-renowned academic, Stephen Hawking, takes on Weasel Hunt.

Recently letters have appeared in national newspapers, signed by umpteen NHS doctors, saying “we have been closely following the exchange between Stephen Hawking and the Secretary of State for Health over the past week (Why won’t Jeremy Hunt come clean?, 26 August).

Since Professor Hawking delivered a momentous speech to the Royal Society of Medicine exposing the policy-driven reality of NHS underfunding and moves towards a US-style insurance system, tensions have mounted.

Looking suitably contrite, the profound irony of Jeremy Hunt claiming that a world-renowned professor, an academic pioneer who has dedicated his life to generating scientific evidence, is spreading “pernicious falsehoods”, or that his appraisals are “misguided”, when Jeremy Hunt himself has been unreservedly criticised for misuse of evidence for political expediency, is not lost on most.

Hawking’s speech, and the extraordinary reaction it drew from Hunt, turned out to be the main talking point at the Royal Society of Medicine’s recent Talk NHS conference, which had invited doctors, NHS staff, and the public to have their say on the future of the health service. Speaking at the event on 19 August, Hawking gave a very personal account of the benefit that seven day NHS services could bring to patients, but he also emphasised the need for policy making to be based on evidence.

I  It has been frustrating for me personally when everything slows down at the weekend in hospital,” Hawking said. “However,” he added, “any change like this must be properly researched. Its benefits over the current system must be argued for, and evidence for them presented;

More comments in the press were on the lines of “as NHS doctors we have been closely following the exchange between Stephen Hawking and the secretary of state for health over the past week. Since Professor Hawking delivered his momentous speech to the Royal Society of Medicine exposing the policy-driven reality of NHS underfunding and moves towards a US-style insurance system, tensions have mounted.

The profound irony of Jeremy Hunt claiming that a world-renowned professor, an academic pioneer who has dedicated his life to generating scientific evidence, is spreading “pernicious falsehoods”, or that his appraisals are “misguided”, when Jeremy Hunt himself has been unreservedly criticised for misuse of evidence for political expediency, is not lost on most people. In fact, so audacious a claim is this that one has to ask oneself what could have prompted such a statement?

The BMJ bought in Andy Burnham, former Health Minister, to fuel up the arguments.  The current dispute with the eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has gone too far, Burnham, now mayor for Greater Manchester, has said. He told The BMJ he thought that the current health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was wrong to repeatedly dispute Hawking’s views on the evidence for seven day NHS services.

The spat makes for entertaining reading in Google, but must be worrying for the minions in Richmond Towers, retained to safeguard weasel Hunt from slings and arrows.  Taking on an eminent scientist such as Hawking is a risky business, unless one is 1000% sure of facts – and in this case Hunt seems to be on very sticky ground.

Warning

If Hunt seems determined to commit professional suicide, is this because a lovely, lucrative job offer has landed in his in tray, and he is tired of being the fall guy?  In which case, whom will we get as next Minister of State?  The mind boggles.   

 

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