After repeated strike action by junior doctors and the terrible ability to negotiate a solution, Jeremy Hunt has lost the confidence of the medical profession. As if this wasn’t already grounds for being sacked, he has decided to impose this hatred contract on junior doctors and every day there are many stories on how the NHS is lurching between crises. Not only should he resign, he should apologise to the all workers in the NHS.
In a series of exposés by The I Jeremy Hunt has been shown to be incompetent at his job, or even worse deliberately trying to undermine people’s faith in the NHS. In the last few days junior doctors went out on strike once again, a large supplier of NHS equipment has shown to have paid very little tax over a period of 12 years, Hunt has apparently vetoed a decision that would have ended strike action, and a poll showed that imposing this despised new contract would prompt mass resignations by junior doctors. Today Hunt has decided to ignore all of these stories and impose the new contract anyway.
To take these stories in isolation, Hunt is at blame for every one. As the Secretary of State for Health, Hunt is responsible with negotiating contracts with private companies to provide equipment for the NHS. NHS managers, who are often chastised as ‘bureaucratic busy-bodies’ by much of the right-wing press, tried to prevent companies from providing services but the fear of litigation by these large multinationals was enough to cow-tow the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) in Bristol to yield.
At this point it is worth pointing out that this is a local issue between the company and the CCG, however, unless I’m much mistaken, the Heath Secretary has to right to refuse this contract, especially if the NHS was going to be sued by a private company. If I am wrong, and the Secretary of State for heath can’t stop this kind of activity, my next question is: why not? If the local CCG doesn’t want it, how can the Health Secretary not have to powers to stop it himself.
The situation boils down to what Hunt can do, and there are three scenarios: firstly, he can’t do anything because the Secretary of State can’t get involved; secondly he didn’t stop this strong-arming because he is incompetent; or thirdly he knew exactly what he is doing and didn’t care. In all of these situations, Hunt should be forced to resign or be sacked.
The second thing was that the BMA reported that the they, the Department of Health, and the NHS had agreed premises for further talks that would resolve the final few disagreements between the parties. However the negotiators for the BMA have said that “negotiations have completely broken down. There are no more dates planned for talks. The BMA wants to continue negotiating but the other side has walked away”. The government response to the BMA’s comments were that the BMA “hadn’t made any substantive new proposals since the new year” but this response is based on the Department of Health (DoH) refusing to negotiate over its plans to reclassify Saturdays as another working day. The only reason that the DoH is refusing toshift its ground is that other workers in the NHS like auxiliary staff and nurses will be able to negotiate better contracts from a stronger position. The decision to walk away from talks lies at the feet of Jeremy Hunt, which should be grounds for being fired.
The third thing is a poll of junior doctors that was made public yesterday that stated that 90% of junior doctors would consider resigning from the NHS if this contract was imposed upon them. Less that 24 hours after this poll was published Hunt announced that he was going to impose the contract upon him. How can the Conservative Party claim to love the NHS if it has been adversarial to all the work within it, and the strikes by the doctors have huge support from the British public.
A recent poll from Ipsos MORI showed that 64% of people blamed the government for the strikes by junior doctors and only 13% blamed the BMA. Think about that for a second: the Conservative Party won the election by getting the support of 27% of the total population or 37% or the votes cast, yet support for the government’s position, that the strike is because of the BMA, is less than half of that first figure.
The thing that I don’t understand about this whole situation is that there is no way in which the Conservatives can claim that they love the NHS when doctors are going on strike, nurses continue to be underpaid and overworked, A&E departments and maternity wards are closing, and now the government is imposing a contract on junior doctors that may result in a mass exodus of medics.
If I was David Cameron, even if I agree entirely with want Jeremy Hunt was trying to do, I would have made the political calculation of how bad this looks, and sacked him. Surely no Health Secretary is worth all this grief and politically toxic media coverage. The ball is in Cameron’s court: either impose this contract and prompt so many resignations that the British public will go apeshit, or sack Hunt and diffuse the situation. I can’t for the life of me say what he’s going to do because he’s busy pretending to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership conditions, but we can only hope that Cameron sends Hunt the same way as Andrew Lansley: out the God damn door.