Getting Trolled By the Government: A Response to the e-petition to debate a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt

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.

1. The definition of ‘committed’ from google “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity”. This would suggest a sustained ‘dedication’ to a cause.

2. However, the NHS has seen a fall in funding year on year as % GDP –  9.7 in 2009 (inflatedly high due to the economic recession), to 9.1 in 2013. [1]  The absolute spending per capita has also fallen; from a high of $3916 per head of population in 2007 to $3598 in 2013. This is the lowest bar Italy of the G7 countries (Japan, Canada, US, Italy, France, Germany, and the UK) as well as lower than most of Western Europe and New Zealand.

3. From the data, see below, into ‘safe’ weekend care, this mostly applies to emergency care – therefore ‘safe’ should focus on funding A&E and GP. Dozens of A&Es have been downgraded or closed [3] and 169 GP practices are either contemplating or planning closure in 2014/15 [4].

Many people do not realise that if you are admitted to hospital on a weekend, you have a 16% greater chance of dying. 

1. The reason they don’t realise this is because it’s not true.  The narrative from the government is : “if are you admitted at the weekend, there is a 16% chance that you wil die in hospital, and this is due to a lack of care from professional who would otherwise be there if it wasn’t a pesky Sunday”. The government also hasn’t officially attributed this figure to any research: however the figure is lifted from here.

2. Here are two analyses of said paper- juniordoctorblog and abrainiablog. The actual narrative is more complex, but to summarise it probably goes “Research shows emergency patients admitted on a Sunday are 16% more likely to die in the next thirty days as patients on a Wednesday, a third within three days, during the week, and a third after discharge, after weeks in hospital. Additionally, patients, in hospital, are 8% less likely to die on a Sunday than a Wednesday. This probably reflects the fact patients have to be more unwell to present to A&E on a Sunday than a Wednesday, but it is very unclear the reason why.” What is very clear however is that the bump in mortality applies primarily to emergency admissions.

The Government wants to change this

1. Which will be extremely hard to do if you fail to understand what ‘this’ actually represents.

so that everyone can be confident that they will receive the same level of care whatever day of the week they are admitted to an NHS hospital.

2. But we know, to improve safety, we must improve emergency admissions. That is in no way the same as ‘the same level of care’ which encompasses the whole weekday non-emergency NHS activity. If you have a resource finite environment you prioritise to increase the best outcome- limiting mortality over morbidity over inconvenience. This is a fundamental principle of healthcare.

3. The ‘same level of care‘ targeted in the contracts is, by definition, non-emergency care. Firstly, the data linked to increased 16% in deaths in weekend admissions is entirely emergency admissions, which are already covered. Secondly, a recent FOI request found, so far, of 4101 consultants NONE have opted out. (Explicit thanks to Kiara Vincent who filed all of these requests [7]). Here is a table.


UPDATED 28/7/15: I will just reiterate that. Not a single consultant has been found to be opting out of non-emergency care. NOT ONE. NADA. NIL. NO ONE. The previous single Pennine doctor, found to be opting out initially, turns out had opted out of the European Working Time Directive to help with ‘service demands and provision’. This means they worked longer than a 48 hour week, i.e extra hours for the benefit of the hospital. [16] (Thanks to Dr Hugh Harvey for the follow-up excellent piece of FOI).

5. ‘Same level of care‘ does not mean ‘consultant presence’- it should mean the same doctors, porters, nurses, OT, physiotherapists, radiographers, MRI and CT access, biochemistry and microbiology access. The system can’t afford this on current funding- regardless how much doctors are forced to work for how much that will not change.

NHS consultants already provide an outstanding service and show great dedication to ensuring patients get the best outcomes.

1) Yes they do. In fact here are the WHO outcomes for the NHS compared with the rest of the world. Here they are in 2010 through to 2013. No change- despite the levelled ‘failings’ of the NHS the actual numbers are not changing.

But the Government has a duty to make sure the system is set up in a way which makes it as easy as possible for hospitals to organise their resources to maximise patient safety across every day of the week.

1) It doesn’t technically have a duty to provide a comprehensive NHS anymore [8] as of the 2012 Health and Care Social Act.

2) Organisation of resource- already the system is stretched, during the week or weekend. Admissions are increasing [9] from 11.9 million in 1998 to 18.2 million in 2013 and many hospitals are in debt due to PFI [10] deals that no one has offered to renegotiate. What would increase patient safety is redeployment of resources to increase ancillary staff, to fund A&E and staff it, and to the renegotiation of PFI deals to end their crippling interest**.

3) Additionally under new immigration rules [11] will mean the culling of about 3500 NHS nurses, which has not only financial implications but the loss of experience from the utter bedrock of the NHS will be catastrophic- so there are much bigger problems than seven-day non-emergency convenient services.

To understand more about the possible issues for staff contracts,

1. Read ‘to make a political show of backing our own aggressive undermining policies toward the medical profession’.

last year the government asked the independent pay review bodies for NHS staff – The Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) and the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) for their observations and recommendations about how the reform of employment contracts could help support the delivery of seven day services in England.

The reports were published this month. They identified that a major barrier to seven day services is a decade old contractual right in the consultants’ contract negotiated by their union representatives in 2003 that allows senior doctors to refuse to work non-emergency work in the evenings, at nights and at weekends.

1) So here the Government [UPDATED]: MUST HAVE LOST THEIR MINDS if that is a ‘major barrier’ to seven day services. I.E the evidence is clear, not a single consultant so far has opted out, therefore this is utterly malicious rubbish.

What constitutes non-emergency care? For example: Hip replacement, dermatology opinion, shoulder physiotherapy. Do you want to get an eye test at 2am? Probably not. But you might want to at 9am on Saturday? So would I- except thats a cost to pay for convenience, not safety. ***

No junior doctor, nurse or other clinical group has any such right.

1. Except they do- junior doctors would not be expected to see non-emergency patients out of hours ‘on call’- they would be properly sent to GPs or ambulatory care units. What goes on in hospitals depends how you define ‘non-emergency’. If you take emergency to mean new admissions, unwell patients and complex patients requiring daily review these are standard on call duties. But, non-emergency work over the weekend, for example doing blood tests that take weeks to get a result (e.g genetic sequencing) or seeing a patient with acne, pull time away from emergency patients unnecessarily. We can’t ‘opt-out’, but that doesn’t mean that we are providing a 24-7 non-emergency service and only consultants are missing – this is a gross misrepresentation. And additionally no consultant IS opting out.

Other senior public sector professionals who work in services required to keep the public safe, such as police officers, firemen and prison governors, do not have this opt out either.

1. Following along- suddenly non-emergency opt out= safety. If there is any non-emergency police or fire work that our colleagues are doing at weekends and nights, please let us know.

Whilst the vast majority of consultants work tirelessly for their patients,

1. Correction- they all do.

the opt out allows individuals to charge employers hugely expensive payments which are much higher than national contract rates (up to £200 an hour).

2. UPDATED: The evidence is clear, whoever wrote this is actually referring to agency doctors covering staff shortages NOT any single doctor reaping the rewards of imaginary opt-outs. (Which, let me labour the point, DOES NOT EXIST).

The average earnings for a hospital consultant are already in the top 2% in the country at £118,000, and these inflated payments can make it difficult for hospitals to provide the weekend cover they know patients need.

1. Average UK earnings for consultants- this is not clear, the top salary after 19 years of being in post is £101,451 – I struggle to find how the average is 118K. Here is the pay scale: [12]  Who else is in the top 2%? [13]  In a list that includes brokers, chief executives, financial managers, sales directors and PR directors only two other professions are comparable: pilots and air traffic controllers. No job in that list requires AT LEAST 14 years of training (6 years of medical school and 8-10 years of postgraduate training) and holds the responsibility for life and death. And don’t forget the cost of indemnity to handle that responsibility.

2. Inflated payments that make it difficult; what also makes hospital finances difficult are PFI deals, and locum costs for overstretched departments like A&E when other hospitals have closed.

3. We, as a profession, know the patients need ‘weekend cover’ for emergencies– which is already in place. This should be better funded.
The report endorsed the removal of the opt out, as well as broadly supporting other changes to the consultant contract that would ensure the right level of cover is available every day of the week; not just Monday to Friday.

1. The DDRB has rubber stamped the government and is not independant at all. It also recommended a pay rise- which the government completely ignored. ****

Under the new plans, doctors will still continue to receive a significantly higher rate for working unsocial hours

and there will be a contractual limit (not an expectation) of working a maximum of 13 weekends a year.

1. The redefinition will actually mean an effective pay cut, possibly in the realms of many thousands of pounds. [14]

By the end of the Parliament, the Government hopes that the majority of consultants, in line with existing practice for nurses, midwives and junior doctors, will be on reformed contracts,

1. As above, this will mean a pay cut and longer hours and no benefit to patients other than convenience, but likely an overall  much worse service, in the context of an already besieged emergency system.

working across seven days, to deliver a better service to patients.

2. Note now the aim is service and not safety.

Hospitals like Salford Royal and Northumbria that have instituted seven day services have already seen improvements in patient care and staff morale.

1. These improvements [15] are all in the emergency areas and acute wards, no non-emergency work at all.

These new plans will mean that doctors working in some of the toughest areas in the NHS, such as A&E and obstetrics, will at last be properly rewarded and there will be faster pay progression for all consultants early on in their career.

1. Despite closing or downgrading 66 A&Es and maternity units already.

Under the new proposals, the highest performing consultants could be able to receive up to £30,000 a year in bonus payments, on top of their base salary. Of course, improving weekend care requires more than just ensuring greater consultant presence.

1) Really? First time this is mentioned.

That’s why the government is also addressing issues such as access to weekend diagnostic services, provision of out of hospital care to facilitate weekend discharges, and adequate staffing cover amongst other clinical groups,.

2) Really, where?

But NHS leaders and the independent pay review bodies are clear that increasing the presence of senior clinical decision makers at weekends is vital, and that the consultant opt out remains a barrier to organising broader support services and staff rotas.


The Government feels it is under an obligation to the public to do all it can to make NHS care at the weekend as safe as during the week through the delivery of seven day services this Parliament and that is what it will continue to do.

1) And back to ‘safety’.


This is an infogram to summarise the governments reasoning for seven day care.

Thread Infogram

While the real thinking is;

1) How can we make the NHS more into a ‘consumer’ friendly service, despite the fact that we know the funding will not cover such a change, and simultaneously demoralise doctors and staff to the point that both patients and staff will look to ‘private’ reform as a crisis solution.

It doesn’t get a lot of media coverage but here is some interesting information on the Health Secretary, the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt.

1) He co-authored a book called ‘Direct Democracy’ which explicitly idealises the dismantling of the NHS and how to do it

2) In 2012 he was stepped down from the position of Culture secretary following accusations of corruption over the BSkyB deal- putting private interests first over public benefit.

3) He has no medical or scientific qualifications whatsoever- he has a 1st class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford.

4) His background is business, but he did try to make it as English Language Teacher. I wish he’d stuck with it.

5) It is a instant dismissal offence in the NHS to break patient confidentiality. A picture from Mr Hunts visit to an NHS hospital showed the names of several patients for surgery. The DoH found the picture, shared to 70,000 people, was an ‘innocent mistake’. Still no one has apologised to the named patients on the list, telling the whole world about their medical histories without their consent.

And this is the man charged with looking after the NHS.


And then sign this;

**Yes, most of these PFIs came from the last Labour government. There are few heroes in this story.

***Perhaps a more reasonable solution would be to create a statutory medical appointment payment- this would pay a small fee for missed work to companies where patients are away attending non-urgent appointments.

****The DDRB is also destroying the junior doctor contract- altering it to make unsociable hours extend to 7am-10pm at Monday to Saturday. 9pm on a Saturday for your in-growing toenail removal?

*****I am a little sad I had to remove the phrase “Nuclear Powered Super Doctor”, so I’ve archived it here for posterity.

















  1. Add to the “contractual limit of 13 weeks per year” aspect, currently all of our maximum contractual limits are being illegally ignored with a nasty deception whenever time sheeting comes along- contracts seem to be something we have to stick to when it benefits our employers re pay etc but they can ignore at will without consequence

  2. And even more key, the petition was not about the 7 day care services or any pay changes or changes to contracts. It was to debate a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Hunt, a man the response does not mention and a request they do not acknowledge. Politician answering by changing/ignoring the question

  3. The response from the goverment was an insult. It basically told us doctors to calm down as we don’t understand what wie are doing. Thank you for the simple analysis of the goverment arguments to destroy the NHS with less funding to spread less resources and more presence.

  4. Truely excellent synopsis of the evidence and arguments surrounding these issues. I truly hope you have sent a version of this to every major newspaper and media outlet and also a copy to your local MP.

    Pete (another pissed off doctor)

  5. If they’ve already responded to the initial petition, perhaps it’s time to create a new one for further discussion regarding the points above, and to address why they did not actually discuss the topic addressed in the petition- which was the vote of no confidence (possibly using some of the fun Jeremy hunt facts above as basis)

  6. Another excellent blog article; thank you very much for your succinct and entertaining observations/analysis.

  7. Bloody brilliant. Thank you so much for doing this. Man, it makes me so angry what the government are doing.

  8. Thanks for this – another great post. I’m so irate. Do you know if anyone is organising any kind of visible protest around the dates on which the government has to respond to this? For example this Mirror article (I’m normally a Guardian woman, but this appeared on my feed) ( mentions a meeting on 8th September to debate having a debate about Mr Hunt. Which would be a good day for some kind of action I imagine. I have no idea who organises marches like this, and I tried just googling it and nothing came up, so God knows how this works, but if you know of anything (since you’re one of the most shared things on my FB feed right now) please pass it on!. Signing off now since my laptiop is doing something mad, so that I can’t see what I’m typing :/. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts on this as ever, keep up the good work – online and at work!

  9. An excellent analysis all, well done. I do also feel that we need to engage the public in this too as its being done in their name. I say this because one of my non-medical Facebook friends asked a question about 7 day services. Before I could respond, the question was taken down within minutes. I can only imagine that there is a section of the public that fear being trolled simply because they don’t understand what this dispute is about. This is not good because those afraid to ask legitimate questions will only feel that we as a profession are Simply resisting change and not interested in providing a 7 day service that they want. We risk alienating the public if we only focus on telling people how hard we work. On one level they know this but they also want 7 day services too and currently a proportion of the public have bought into the government propaganda and think we are a barrier to this. We can’t just fight this with more statistics, we need to win the battle of perception too and show we have nothing to hide. The fact is that 7 day services for elective and emergency services costs money. The DDRB report clearly states this and crucially that within the current NHS budget, it’s undeliverable. However the government is trying to introduce 7 day services on the cheap without new money or a) addressing deficiencies in urgent and primary care and b) egg writerly cutting the wages of existing staff to pay for 7day elective services. We need the public to understand this and decide where or not they want to pay for the additional investment in increased taxation. Healthcare is not cheap especially if you want it at your convenience.

  10. I’m not in the healthcare profession, but would not be here today without them. I’ve signed the petition and received the nonsensical response (which I thought was utter rubbish even before I read the excellent post above). I’ve emailed my MP. Can I do anything else?

  11. “2. However, the NHS has seen a fall in funding year on year as % GDP – 9.7 in 2009 (inflatedly high due to the economic recession), to 9.1 in 2013. [1] The absolute spending per capita has also fallen; from a high of $3916 per head of population in 2007 to $3598 in 2013. This is the lowest bar Italy of the G7 countries (Japan, Canada, US, Italy, France, Germany, and the UK) as well as lower than most of Western Europe and New Zealand”

    The % of GDP number is misleading. If we care about what the NHS can afford, we need the total budget in cash terms, adjusting for inflation. The amount in Dollars is also misleading, as over this period the Pound depreciated much more than Euro (or the currencies of the other countries on this list).

    What matters is the budget per capita (or per patient) in Pounds, adjusting for inflation. This increased every year over the 2010-15 parliament, one of the few areas of public spending to do so (alongside overseas aid).

      • Click to access PSS_April_2015.pdf

        Table 10a, page 21. Item 7.

        Spending on health (more than just the NHS, but the NHS only items don’t appear to be adjusted for infltion) goes up from 2010/11 (£126.5bn) to 2013/4 (£129.4bn). This is while overall gvt spending falls from £744bn to £722bn, indicating that the government is prioritising health (relative to other types of public spending)

  12. This is a brilliant breakdown of the problems with this reply. If you don’t mind I will link to you on my blog as I couldn’t think of a better way to explain these points. Thank you for your time in critically analysing this and properly referencing thise sources! If only Mr Hunt and co put as much time and effort into their press releases

  13. Thanks for this. It’s easy as a non-medical lay-person to hear all the political noise and, although we can see it’s just noise, to not know the true story. This really made it a lot clearer for me.

  14. Exceptional commentary. Before I started training to be a nurse, I was resentful of consultants and their six-figure salaries. Having seen what consultants do (on weekends, too, gasp!) they earn every penny and deserve a lot more. I’m so glad Mr. Hunt went down the PPE route rather than decided to take a foray into medicine…

  15. Great piece – doctors seem to be putting up a good fight, but I don’t know if your research and comments are being picked up where it matters. i.e. places which aren’t on your side, so The Daily Mail, rather than the Guardian. (see this piece There is some sign in the comments on that piece that people are not happy with the government on this, but I think it needs more.

    I have no idea how you achieve this, but I hope it can be done, and best of luck….

  16. Thank you, good piece. In the interest of being balanced though, that FOI request is a little dodgy. For 2 reasons.
    1. Those are only a few trusts out of the entire country. How do we know those aren’t selected?
    2. Those figures seem to be for consultants who’ve opted out of non-emergency work on weekends, according to the chart. I thought we were talking about opt-out of emergency work.Those figures are likely to be much higher.
    I disagree with the superficial academic analysis of the weekend mortality data… which tallies with my and I think most other doctor’s personal experience… that emergency care is worse on weekends than weekdays.

    • There is NO opt out for emergency work in the existing contract.
      Never has been.
      That is a myth which has been allowed to run by Hunt and repeated so often by journalists without checking that everyone seems to believe it – even you!

  17. I feel it’s a bit unfair that the government promises to honour Doctor’s Unsociable Hours payments increasing their pay. Meanwhile Nurse’s are possibly going to have theirs scrapped? I doubt the BMA or GMC will stick their oar in and defend Nurses.

  18. I didn’t have any understanding of how the NHS works other than as an occasional user, so thank you for this. I was initially suspicious of Hunt’s assertions since the only medical professionals I know already work all kinds of hours and long shifts, but this has properly clarified it for me.

    Sure I’d love to get an appointment at a time that suits me most. But I don’t mind waiting a few days for a non-emergency if it means the doctor I eventually see might not be ridiculously stressed and overworked.

  19. Excellent response – but a couple of errors / ommissions.
    1. Re consultants average earnings. You quote the basic salary scale but have not mentioned clinical excelence awards. I suspect that Govt in reaching their £118k figure also include the additional PAs many of us work (ie iif our job plan is 11 PAs = 44 hours/week we get 10% more than basic) – but not fair to include this.
    .2. If consultants doing paid work outside of contract (that amazing £200 per hour) that is in own time. If it makes it hard fopr Trusts to deliver services, that is like saying it is hard to deliver cheap radiotherapy because the scanners are expensive. This government has always advocated market forces.
    3. The “bonus” of “up to” £30,000 would be a replacement for current clinical excellence awards. Govt is keen to tell everyone that these can be “up to” £75,000 when it suits them to claim we are all rich fat cats. Actually the top platinum award is held by 40 consultants in the country. So the top rate of the new bonus (£30k) will be a £45K pay cut for some. And I am guessing that the top £30k will go to about 40 of the brightest and best, while for most it will be much less. While I am sure that current Clinical Excellence Award system could be improved, I am sure that govt expect whatever replaces it to be cheaper, ie another pay cut.

  20. Don’t forget the following argument regarding pay. Doctors earn more than 98% of the population. Yes, but the job is not even vaguely comparable to those of the entire population. Would you like to have a McDonalds employee operate on your heart?

    The calibre of the people who choose to become doctors are more in line with high paid lawyers, bankers and senior corporate managers. This is the opportunity cost of becoming a doctor. Instead of going into e.g. the City, these people chose to become doctors and service the community.

    In this context the salary, even at a senior level, is relatively modest. The doctor bashing is distasteful when you think about the relevant group to compare with and what doctors do on a regular basis for the wider population.

  21. I was wondering if there are any plans for protests? Are there ideas for any more public campaigns, particularly any that are not internet based (as great as they are!!) to inform a wider audience. One crude idea could be to get healthcare professionals volunteering for an hour or so up and down the country in different public areas with fliers etc to inform more of the general public.
    I know it’s a very basic idea. I just feel we have a chance to really gain momentum and potentially make a bit difference if we group together and attempt a public campaign of our own as we won’t do this alone…
    Sarah PN

  22. Well analysed and brilliantly written! It’s about time these thoughts/protest against our selfish Govt., apart from on the Internet took a more concrete shape in the form of public debate maybe on television and other media. Medical professionals vs the politicians. The outrage at Jeremy Hunt needs to be aired and the selfishness of politicians benefitting from Private Care donors to them be published so all can see their true colours. They ‘care’ for patients???? Really???? I’ll be damned!

  23. This is an excellent response to a statement I’m sure we all read and thought “Wow, they don’t understand much about this issue at ALL”. Unfortunately we aren’t the people that need to be convinced.

  24. Good web site! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I’ve subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a great day! edaegcadbeak

Leave a Reply to David Belch Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s