Dr Fiona Godlee said: ‘I am writing to register my concern about the way in which you have publicly misrepresented an academic article published in The BMJ.’ She emphasized that ‘what it does not do is apportion any cause for that excess, nor does it take a view on what proportion of those deaths might be avoidable.’
Dr Godlee noted that Mr Hunt has, on a number of occasions, told MPs and the public that excess deaths following weekend admissions to hospital were due to low staffing levels over weekend periods, implying that the excess deaths were indeed avoidable.
Two academic lecturers, Antonio de Marvao and Palak J Trivedi, recently wrote to the Cabinet Office requesting an investigation of Mr Hunt’s claims. Their letter attracted signatures from thousands of other doctors and medical students. However, Dr de Marvao said that the letter had had no effect.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘There is clear independent clinical evidence of a “weekend effect” in hospitals, evidence supported by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and NHS England’s medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.’