194,941 sign ‘Sack Hunt’ petition

Doctors march in defence of surgeries in east London
Doctors march in defence of surgeries in east London

PATIENTS and doctors still need answers on seven-day hospital services, Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said yesterday.

This follows the government’s response to a petition calling on Parliament to debate a vote of no confidence in health secretary Hunt. It responded that: ‘The government is committed to delivering seven-day services to make sure that patients get the same high quality, safe care on a Saturday and Sunday as they do on a week day.’

100,000 signatures are needed to secure a parliamentary debate. As of midday yesterday, the Parliament website recorded 194,941 signatures. The e-petition states: ‘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 British Medical Association said: ‘The BMA has been clear that it supports more seven-day hospital services but has raised repeated legitimate concerns over the government’s failure to outline how they will allay the public’s concerns over the potential impact on the service they receive and what they define as a truly seven-day NHS.

‘To date, the government has been unwilling or unable to set out what it defines as seven-day services – despite admitting there is a “general public interest in making this information available for the sake of greater transparency and openness”.’

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: ‘Doctors care for their patients every day and understand their needs, and have been explicit in their support for more seven-day hospital services. We have repeatedly called on the government to outline how they will fund and staff them, and yet neither we nor the public are any closer to finding out the detail of the government’s plans.

‘Two-thirds of the public don’t think the NHS can afford seven-day services. Almost nine in ten don’t believe doctors alone can deliver it, and 84 per cent say delivering seven-day services should not mean fewer services are available during the week.

‘It is positive that the government, in their response to the public petition, have listened to the BMA and recognised that improving weekend care requires more than just ensuring greater consultant presence. Just adding a doctor to a ward will make no real difference if the support is not there. But recognising this is not enough, we need the detail.

‘The government won’t even define what they mean by seven day services, despite confirming that such a definition does exist and that it would be in the public interest to say so. It is in everybody’s interests that the government is honest with the public and sets outs its plans.’