The Plastic Hippo

February 11, 2016


Filed under: Health,Media,Politics — theplastichippo @ 3:02 am
Tags: , , , , ,

John BullFor a man of my age and given a lifetime of rather unpleasant and somewhat destructive habits, I am unfairly blessed with remarkably good health. On Wednesday, however, I presented my sorry carcass to a local A & E department and demanded to be seen by a junior doctor and, for good measure, any passing neurosurgeon in order to give them a piece of whatever remains of my mind regarding their decision to undertake industrial action. The very idea that junior doctors should vote to strike is an indication of just how sick the patient is and with vital signs fading, it might be too late for intensive care.

Approaching the picket line, the piece of my mind I gave them was this. Health care professionals working in the NHS brought my children safely into the world and cared diligently and with great compassion as my parents left the world. When some weasel politician backed by a feral media describe doctors as greedy, lazy and stupid, ten minutes of my day to show support and simply say thank you is nothing more than a token gesture. Based on the coverage of the last junior doctor`s industrial action, I realised that if I stood in the middle of the road and harangued medics with vague and erroneous references to the Hippocratic oath, my solitary rant would be broadcast on every sound and vision news bulletin for the next 36 hours. The handshake, the squeeze of a shoulder and the offer of a bag of jelly babies went unreported but it was a gesture that simply had to be made.

There was a subtle change of editorial policy in excitable and detached newsrooms between to two strikes. During the first strike, repeating government lies, shouting at the BMA and allowing ministers and well-paid accountants to go unchallenged seriously backfired on media outlets and in particular the BBC. It seemed that the public did not believe the spin and support for junior doctors increased even though the shouting man in the middle of the road achieved his 36 hours of fame. At one point, in an attempt at impartiality, a BBC radio phone-in asked;
“Have you had your operation cancelled and your life put at risk by striking doctors? The number to call is…”
Later, a reporter from BBC Cornwall said on air;
“Everyone I have spoken to broadly support the junior doctors but this is just a straw poll so is obviously inaccurate. However people on social media are describing doctors as greedy and are putting patient`s lives at risk.”

Thrilled at this piece of balanced, investigative “journalism”, I took ten minutes out of my day to check the report on I-player and actually write down what passes for unbiased public information at the BBC.

On that same day, the BBC and others reported that doctors in Sandwell “refused” to attend to patients during a “major incident” declared as a Level Four emergency. Later it transpired that the major incident had been announced the day before through the medium of a memo from an executive who had approved an increase in non-urgent appointments on the day of the proposed strike. Sandwell later downgraded the event to Level Three resulting in the executive becoming a laughing stock.

Not to be outdone in looking and sounding stupid, the Secretary of State, a certain Jeremy Hunt said;
“As I understand it in the latest update I had on the Sandwell situation, the doctors on the ground ignored the national BMA instructions and did go back to work. I think the Trust are in the process of de-escalating those situations. I think that shows the value of junior doctors – in the end they do want to do the right thing for patients and I salute them for it.”

As the laughter died away at this risible nonsense, the government backed down on a second doctor`s strike only to hit reverse when everyone was distracted by Cameron making a fool of himself again over Europe, immigration, the economy and just about everything else. Withdrawing any notion of compromise or even negotiation, the politicians and the accountants returned to their task of destroying the NHS and another strike was called. It is worth pointing out that 98 per cent in favour is considerably more impressive than the current government`s mandate and it would be disrespectful to remember the government`s selective approach to manifesto commitments.

This time, the media agenda had to be better managed. Repeating government lies, shouting at the BMA and allowing ministers and well-paid accountants to go unchallenged were, of course, the familiar background noise but inventing instantly dismissed “major incidents” were sensibly avoided. Instead of drawing attention to bogus crisis, the tactic was to ignore the whole thing and dismiss clinician concern by leaking the news that the unsafe contract would be imposed regardless of anything approaching common sense. Above all, Jeremy Hunt must be kept in a darkened room with soft walls and furniture only to be allowed out to not blink very much in front of a camera and talk of patient safety.

Jeremy HuntThere really are a lot of questions regarding Jeremy Hunt and his place in the world. The fact that the words “culture” and “health” appear on his CV would tax the wit and wisdom of even the most benign observer. Forgetting the brown envelopes over BSkyB, the links with private health corporations and the fact that he is a congenital liar, the member for South West Surrey is, I`m sure, a thoroughly charming fellow and perfectly qualified to veto clinical decisions made by medical professionals. Sadly, he seems incapable of distinguishing between seven day routine care and seven day emergency care and this might explain why he has closed so many A & E departments. Similarly, setting arbitrary NHS Trust targets with reduced funding and then imposing fines has resulted in many Trusts facing huge deficits. When a Health Secretary describes paramedics as “ambulance drivers”, it seems fairly obvious where the threat to the nation`s health lies.

I met some lovely people on the picket line. Being lucky enough to enjoy robust health, I am not that stupid to realise that one day I and my children will need them. The one thing we don`t need right now, is Jeremy Hunt.

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