A leaked report from the Ministry of Health’s own department says it is not possible to prove that weekend deaths are higher because of the nature of doctor’s contracts. It could well be that people admitted on weekends are sicker. They may be sicker in part because alternative palliative care is harder to access on weekends.
The report was co-authored by Prof. Sir Bruce Keogh, a most senior and respected doctor in the NHS. Despite the evidence contained in the report, published in September 2015, the Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, continued to suggest that his plan to change the contracts of junior doctors was based on his desire to reduce patient deaths on the weekend. He knew all along the evidence for this was unclear, that it was contested by his own medical advisors, but he never said one word about these doubts to doctors or to the general public. Keogh said the Health Minister’s comments on NHS deaths on weekends have been “rash and misleading”.
Meanwhile a report from the NHS Mental Health Task Force cites income inequality and the lack of opportunity for secure, gainful employment as contributing factors in the mental health crisis. Is the Minister of Health going to admit to this aspect of the report and urge the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to do something about those wider socio-economic concerns that impact heavily on the health of the nation? This is not an incidental issue. Suicide is a leading cause of death among men and boys aged 15-49. It is sharply on the increase.
We are talking about matters of life and death here. Surely it is the duty of the Minister of Health, elected by the public and paid out of public funds to tell the public the truth and to act on behalf of the public. Deliberately misleading the public has to be classed as a most heinous crime. There have to be immediate and important sanctions. Surely it is not unreasonable to expect our elected representatives to be sincere, open and honest.