Speaking on the final day of the Conservatives' annual conference in Birmingham Mr Hunt said that quality care costs the NHS less, not more.
While the government had given the NHS ‘the most generous increase of any government department last year’, Mr Hunt said, ‘just writing a cheque doesn’t raise standards’.
The safest public services, he said were those with the best leadership that ‘supports doctors and nurses to learn from mistakes’. ‘It's not about the level of funding,' he added.
Mr Hunt also called on junior doctors to abandon any industrial action against the new contract. Welcoming the decision by the BMA’s junior doctor committee last month to suspend a series of planned five-day strikes Mr Hunt said: ‘Let’s not argue about statistics or whether we can do more to raise standards for patients. The NHS that you believe in is the NHS we are building.
‘So call off the strikes for good and start working with us to deliver safer care, seven days a week, for patients and their families.’
The health secretary cited ‘eight recent studies’ which showed a ‘weekend effect, which means mortality rates up to 15% higher for those admitted on or around weekends’.
While plans for seven-day services mainly affected consultants, he added, junior doctors ‘must play their part’.
Mr Hunt confirmed plans reported earlier today by GPonline to expand the number of medical school places by up to a quarter from 2018 to end the NHS’s reliance on overseas doctors, and to force all new doctors to work for four years in the NHS after graduating.
The plans have brought an angry response from many doctors, with the BMA warning that the government must tackle the root cause of the NHS workforce crisis, rather than trying to force doctors to stay through a mandatory service period.