Stephen Hawking: Jeremy Hunt attacks physicist's 'pernicious falsehood' in NHS row

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A war of words today escalated between Professor Stephen Hawking and the Health Secretary over the future of the NHS.

Jeremy Hunt accused the leading physicist of “pernicious falsehood” over his claims the Conservatives were putting the health service in crisis.

Prof Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1962, said he “would not be here today if it were not for the service” and attacked the Health Secretary for “cherry-picking” favourable evidence while suppressing contradictory research in order to suit his argument.

Last night the Health Secretary praised the “brilliant physicist” while rejecting his criticism.

But on Saturday afternoon the row continued, with the MP for Surrey West suggested Prof Hawking was deliberately ignoring the evidence.

He tweeted: “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?”

“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!”

Prof Hawking, who is director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, had earlier warned that Mr Hunt’s actions were harmful at a time when public support for science is “more important than ever”.

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

Stephen Hawking: The Cambridge scientist is a lifelong Labour supporter (AFP/Getty Images)

“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.

“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.”

Mr Hunt 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.

Warning “we cannot lose” the NHS, the lifelong Labour supporter attacked Tory policies such as the public sector pay cap, the new contract and removing the student nurse bursary.

Strike: Changes to junior doctors contracts sparked major walk-outs (PA)

He said the health service was being pulled in different directions by multinational corporations driven by profiting from NHS privatisation and the public, which favours a publicly funded health service.

“The NHS is in a crisis, and one that has been created by political decisions,” he wrote.

“These political decisions include underfunding and cuts, privatising services, the public sector pay cap, the new contract imposed on junior doctors, and removal of the student nurses’ bursary.

“Political decisions such as these cause reductions in care quality, longer waiting lists, anxiety for patients and staff, and dangerous staff shortages.”

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