A junior doctor has launched an extraordinary attack on “lying” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and pledged to “make sure you are safe” during the next wave of strikes on the ongoing NHS row.
On BBC’s Question Time, the unnamed medic tore into the Government’s repeated claim that 11,000 die at weekends on the NHS, and linked the mortality rate to the need for a “seven-day” service.
But the statistic has been contested, not least by the author of the British Medical Journal report which came up with the number, making clear it would be “misleading” to suggest it was the result of poor care.
"It is misrepresenting and lying, frankly, because when you’re told something is wrong and you continually repeat it, it becomes a lie."
The issue remains alive as junior doctors plan another wave of strikes after Hunt announced he would impose a new contract on them after months of talks broke down.
The doctor’s epic rant came after Tory peer and Downton Abbey creator Lord Julian Fellowes said he “wouldn't want my mum to go into hospital when there was a strike on”, and repeated the hotly contested 11,000 deaths figure.
Julian Fellowes: "I wouldn't want my mum to go into hospital when there was a strike on."
He was shouted down by the Question Time audience in Poole - who protested "it's not true!" - and columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer, who pointed out most people who come to hospital at the weekend are emergency cases, which was not the case in the week.
They cleared the path for the junior doctor’s attack, which saw him accuse Hunt of “lying”. His brutal take-down is worth repeating in full.
“The stats are wrong.
“I agree with your point, 11,000 people do not die at the weekend. The stats cover Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. They do not die at the weekend.
“If junior doctor staffing at the weekend was a problem, they would be dying at the weekend. They do not. The highest death rate in hospitals is on a Wednesday. You have more doctors on a Wednesday than you do on a Saturday and a Sunday. It is not a ‘weekend effect’.
“It is misrepresented by Mr Hunt. It is misrepresenting and lying, frankly, because when you’re told something is wrong and you continually repeat it, it becomes a lie. He is lying about what is happening in hospitals.
“I am the doctor on call for the next two strikes. I am the surgical registrar, the junior doctor who will be looking after each and every one of you when you come in. I will make sure you are safe. I am the man below the consultant who will operate in you if you are sick. I will be there no-one will be out at risk. I will make sure of it.”
The dubious statistic featured again at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, when David Cameron riffed on the “weekend deaths” figure.
Thursday's BBC Question was filmed in Poole
Thursday's BBC Question Time came from Poole, Dorset with panelists including Conservative environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, Labour's shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott, and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer.
They appeared alongside parish priest and Guardian columnist Giles Fraser and the creator of 'Downton Abbey' Julian Fellowes.
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