Do you remember all those Junior Doctors you stuffed Jeremy?

Former health secretary and now chancellor Jeremy Hunt needs to acknowledge the damage inflicted on the NHS by himself and his party during his tenure as health secretary and since.

Perhaps it is time to remind some of those stalwart Farnham & Godalming Hunt supporters to cast their minds back. Perhaps, they need to be reminded why the NHS is in such dire straits today with another Junior Doctors’ strike looming. 

Rachel Clarke, pictured below, is still a doctor working in Oxford. However, many of her contemporaries are working around the globe. Lost to our NHS forever. Australia and New Zealand are among the countries that boast about the expertise of their British colleagues. 
However, Rachel has never forgotten their fight with Jeremy Hunt, our SW Surrey MP – and neither should we.

“I may not be a gynaecologist,” it read, “but I know a Hunt when I see one.”

No other health secretary in NHS history has incensed the medical profession quite like its longest-serving incumbent. During his six-year tenure from 2012 to 2018, Jeremy Hunt presided over a catastrophic decline in NHS standards, the pain of year-on-year austerity budgets, failed pledges to increase the size of the NHS workforce (those 5,000 extra GPs he vowed to deliver by 2020 shrivelled, in fact, into 1,425 fewer GPs) and, most infamously of all, a series of unprecedented strikes by NHS junior doctors.

As a striking junior doctor myself, anti-Hunt sentiment in my household reached such a fever pitch that my then three-year-old daughter, on seeing a tall man walking into the hospital where I worked, once shrieked: “Mummy! Jeremy Hunt is walking into your hospital.” “Oh dear,” I said. “What do you think I should do?” “Go in after him and chop off his head.” These were supercharged, horrible times.

Even today, eight years after the dispute limped to an ignominious end (Hunt duly imposed his despised new contract), my casual mention in the doctors’ mess that he had written a book about all things, patient safety triggered a volley of anatomically robust invective. Zero, the book in question, is subtitled Eliminating Preventable Harm and Tragedy in the NHS. Its ambition cannot be faulted: “Zero is a book about how the NHS can reduce the number of avoidable deaths to zero and in the process save money, reduce backlogs and improve working conditions,” Hunt writes. “Delivering the safest, highest quality care in the NHS post-pandemic could be our very own 1948 moment.”

If I read this correctly, Hunt is suggesting that his blueprint for the health service is so radical it may transform the provision of healthcare for the British public as dramatically as the inception of the NHS three-quarters of a century ago. This raises a rather obvious question. Given that he was the longest-serving health secretary in NHS history, why didn’t he impose his vision in office. 

Not once over the 13 last years has your party cared enough about patient safety to “enforce minimum service & safety levels.” I’ve seen patient die in horrifically understaffed conditions for years – in corridors, on the floor, in toilets, in cupboards. Yet you’ve done nothing.
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Today I announced a new bill which would enforce minimum service and safety levels for vital public services. By delivering these safety levels, this government is ensuring that lives and livelihoods are not lost.
PS. Perhaps Chancellor Jeremy should get out his book “Eliminating Preventable Harm in the NHS” and have a good read.

4 thoughts on “Do you remember all those Junior Doctors you stuffed Jeremy?”

  1. NHS is not run by the Government but by the employed managers and bureaucrats. They need to up their performance and reduce bureaucracy ( difficult for bureaucrats to do as it means fewer jobs). Hunt is right that patients should have a named GP whom they should normally see . Labour is right that GP practices should have scanners and X ray facilities nearby so that the patients don’t have to go to main Hospitals. There needs to be adequate capacity in Care homes so that recovering hospital patients can be transferred there and not bed block. However all this requires more money and we have over the last 10 years been spending a growing proportion of our taxes on NHS. I think that it is now around 35% so it is difficult to afford in a stressed economy post Covid and Ukraine. It is very difficult. More private expenditure by individuals should be considered eg people paying for a visit to a GP unless on Universal credit, and pensioners paying for prescriptions and perhaps even for early elective treatments by NHS.

  2. The government provides the NHS budget and has not kept pace with real inflation. Although trusts are allowed to claim the private income, the ridiculously overinflated prices and ever-ballooning admin does zero for cost-effective clinical risk pooling, which the NHS was set up to provide. The NHS greatly improved health outcomes until Conservatives started privatising facilities in the 80s, expanded b Blair to other areas for the benefit of his wife and cronies. Mgmt consultant spending needs to be paid for by the private sector, not NHS budgets, and whilst Trusts remain backstage to Major and Blair’s corrupt PFI schemes, nothing will change. Or the 300+, including Labour MPs with interests in private healthcare who couldn’t care less about funding the NHS properly. Reinstate the NHS through legislation that removed comprehensive healthcare in 2012, reinstate public accountability, public funding and public delivery so that we all benefit.

  3. The NHS budget comes via the Dept of Health. It has not kept pace with inflation. Trusts are hostage to PFI (emphasis private) schemes set up by Major and Blair. Privatisation of the NHS began with Thatcher outsourcing facilities in the 80s, expanded by Major and then expanded again by Blair to support his wife and cronies.

    Private healthcare massively overinflates cost of treatment, care, private admin costs continue to balloon, as the disaster that is the US health system continues to demonstrate.
    Arguing for a rehash of Darzi’s polyclinics is not new and works in some countries where there are limited facilities, but the UK is smaller and more urban. The NHS continues to evolve and NIHR, NICE were set up to deliver research on what works and how much it costs. The NHS was set up to provide comprehensive healthcare and the most cost effective clinical risk pooling.

    Constant reorganisations of the NHS provide private management and technology consultancies with unnecessary and ever increasing chunks of the NHS budget. So now hospitals are forced to set up foodbanks instead of dealing with the many problems created by perpetual government interference private healthcare including agency spend and rates, the same staff treating the same patients but only with profitable cherry picked treatment regardless of whether its primary care with GPs or secondary care in hospitals. Bevan was aware of this when the NHS was initially discussed. Pre NHS was appalling for health outcomes and the knock on economic effects of unwell populations.

    Emergency care is not profitable so when patients with private care develop more complex or urgent needs, they are sent back to the NHS; when they could have been treated by a well staffed and funded NHS in the first place instead of double spend. Instesd of fueling financial interests of the approx 300 MPs (incl Labour) with private healthcare, reinstate the NHS that was removed in 2012 Act, publicly fund, deliver it, make it an attractive place to work, make all areas of the NHS publicly accountsble instead of hiding behind NDAs etc. Then we all benefit.

    1. Thank you, Nicola, for your very informative comments. Here at the WW, we have noticed that many treatments now go into private hands. Ophthalmology is just one example. We still hear people say, “I’m alright because I have private healthcare,’ however, they soon realise if they need an operation which may require High Dependency Care or intensive care, it cannot be carried out by most private providers. Neither is it any use in an emergency. We need an NHS fit for purpose for its patients and its workforce.

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