Stephen Hawking has criticised the government for causing a crisis in the NHS and accused the health secretary of "cherry-picking" research to justify arguments.
Jeremy Hunt took to Twitter to deny the claims late last night.
Hawking, one of the most renowned scientists in the world, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease when he was 21 years old.
"The care I have received since being diagnosed with motor neurone disease as a student in 1962 has enabled me to live my life as I want, and to contribute to major advances in our understanding of the universe," Hawking wrote in the Guardian yesterday.
For a scientist, cherry-picking evidence is unacceptable.
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.
Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time and a Labour supporter, said Hunt "cherry-picked" research over the so-called weekend effect, which claims that thousands of patients died unnecessarily because of poor hospital care on weekends. Hunt used this research in his argument for a seven-day NHS.
Hunt tweeted that Hawking was a "brilliant physicist" but was wrong about the issue.
Stephen Hawking is brilliant physicist but wrong on lack of evidence 4 weekend effect.2015 Fremantle study most comprehensive ever 1/2— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) August 18, 2017
And whatever entrenched opposition,no responsible health sec could ignore it if you want NHS 2 be safest health service in world as I do 2/2— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) August 18, 2017
The Cambridge University scientist said the NHS is in a crisis created by political decisions. "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," he wrote.
Hawking called the NHS Britain's "finest public service and a cornerstone of our society, something that binds us together".
"The NHS brings out the best in us. We cannot lose it," he wrote.