Jeremy Hunt Continues Spat With Stephen Hawking (And It's Still Going Badly)

He's not giving in.

Undeterred from yesterday’s bruising, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched a fresh attack on Professor Stephen Hawking for suggesting the “direction of change” in the NHS is towards a US-style insurance system.

It came around 17 hours after Hunt rejected the world renowned scientist’s allegation that he “abused” scientific research to justify the creation of a seven-day NHS and the imposition of a new junior doctors’ contract.

The war of words broke out on Friday when Prof Hawking, a lifelong Labour supporter, accused the Health Secretary of “cherry-picking” favourable evidence while suppressing contradictory research in order to suit his argument.

Bloody scientists, always ignoring evidence. What are they like, eh?

— Dave Jones (@WelshGasDoc) August 19, 2017

The 75-year-old, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1962 and said he “would not be here today if it were not for the service”, also suggested the NHS was at risk of privatisation under the Tories.

His comments were supported by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

But on Twitter on Saturday, Hunt hit back.

Most pernicious falsehood from Stephen Hawking is idea govt wants US-style insurance system.Is it 2 much to ask him to look at evidence? 1/2

— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) August 19, 2017

NHS under Cons has seen more money,more docs and more nurses than ever in history.Those with private med insurance DOWN 9.4% since 2009! 2/2

— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) August 19, 2017

To which the satirical website The Daily Mash responded with this gem.

On privatisation, Prof Hawking said the NHS was being subjected to competing forces, with the public who want a taxpayer-funded free service on one side and multinational corporations on the other.

He wrote: “In the US, where they are dominant in the healthcare system, these corporations make enormous profits, healthcare is not universal, and it is hugely more expensive for the outcomes patients receive than in the UK.

“We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a US-style insurance system.”

In the words of Captain Mainwaring

— David Wild (@wildnoe) August 19, 2017

It comes after the pair found themselves embroiled in a row over the so-called “weekend effect”.

The Health Secretary used his drive to create a seven-day NHS as one of the main reasons for reforming junior doctors’ contracts - which led to the biggest walkout of doctors in NHS history.

You truly insult our intelligence.

— Richard Chuck (@rixchuck) August 19, 2017

I'd insult his if he had any

— GaryMHough (@GaryMHough) August 19, 2017

Hunt has cited studies showing higher death rates at weekends when setting out his argument for a seven-day health service.

But Prof Hawking, who is director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, accused him of suppressing contradictory research to suit his argument.

Between a brilliant scientist and you .. give me the Hawking every day!

— Sheriff Bart (@bart_sheriff) August 18, 2017

He wrote: “Hunt had cherry-picked research to justify his argument. For a scientist, cherry-picking evidence is unacceptable.

Such bullshit. As a Consultant I now have to do my own work, the on-calls of an absent colleague & 'act down' to cover empty Jnr Dr posts

— Bear Bad Man (@Bear_Bad_Man_) August 19, 2017

“When public figures abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others to justify policies they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture.

Jeremy Hunt: "Stephen Hawking is brilliant at his only job which is to analyse evidence but he's not brilliant at analysing evidence"

— David Schneider (@davidschneider) August 19, 2017

“One consequence of this sort of behaviour is that it leads ordinary people to not trust science at a time when scientific research and progress are more important than ever.”

Jeremy Hunt v Steven Hawking is the Tory mission in a nutshell: the pig-headed implementation of a harmful ideology in spite of the evidence

— Kevin (@rascalblog) August 19, 2017

Corbyn backed Prof Hawking, telling broadcasters in north Wales: “If Stephen Hawking is saying that our NHS is under threat and in danger and in crisis then I think we need to listen very, very carefully with what he has to say.

“I admire Stephen and I agree absolutely with what he said.

Jeremy Hunt says Steven Hawkings is wrong on scientific analysis

Just let that surreal accusation put everything Tories do into perspective

— Matt Thomas (@Trickyjabs) August 19, 2017

Farron said: “A renowned scientist such as Stephen Hawking questioning your evidence might normally be cause to think again, but sadly it looks as though Jeremy Hunt has joined the chorus of those who have had enough of experts.”


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