Health secretary Jeremy Hunt could face a vote of noconfidence,after more than 213,000 people signed an online Downing Street petition demanding that MPs vote on whether the MP should keep his cabinet position. The petition, which was launched on 11 February, quickly sailed past the 100,000 marker, which would force MPs to consider debating Hunt's suitability for his post in the House of Commons.
The petition accuses the minister of three gaffes referring to the NHS: "Mr Hunt recently gave totally inappropriate advice to Google conditions before seeking medical opinion. He referred to paramedics as ambulance drivers and has caused the first doctors strike in years of the NHS. Mr Hunt is destroying all staff morale in the NHS and will cause recruitment issues."
The MP for South-West Surrey has become a target for the public and health workers after ending negotiations with the BMA over new contracts for NHS junior doctors and announcing he would impose his new contract. This contract extends junior doctor's regular working hours to Saturday, from Monday to Friday, and also extends the number of normal working hours in a day. The contract forms part of Hunt's plan to create a so-called 'seven-day-a-week NHS' service.
Hunt's claims attacked
Hunt has been using what many commentators have said are flawed statistics to insist that more patients, on average, die at the weekend because of a lack of available doctors and hospital staff.
The petition to oust Hunt, which was started by Graham Hillman, and has received up to 6,000 signatures every hour. A series of celebrities have backed the petition to call for a vote of no confidence in Hunt.
Singer Charlotte Church took out her frustrations on Twitter, writing: "I've just signed. He's a sack of t**d. Petition: Consider a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt."
Songwriter and Twitter wit James Blunt made reference to his own abusive nickname and stated: "I'm officially handing over my Cockney Rhyming title to @Jeremy_Hunt".
The health secretary has sought to defend his change to the contracts of junior doctors and told the Houses of Parliament on Thursday: "Under the existing contract doctors can receive the same pay for working quite different amounts of unsocial hours; doctors not working nights can be paid the same as those who do; and if one doctor works just one hour over the maximum shift length it can trigger a 66% pay rise for all doctors on that rota."