If you ever feel like achieving your dream job is impossible, then just remember that Jeremy Hunt, the arrogant, shambolic excuse of a Health Secretary, is somehow still clinging onto his role. His time in office has been characterised by junior doctors strikes, slashes to nursing bursaries, and now this: the worst winter crisis the NHS has ever seen.
On 3rd February, thousands took to London’s streets to protest NHS funding shortages. Donald Trump tweeted that the march was a result of a universal healthcare system ‘going broke and not working’, holding up the protest as a reason why private healthcare was the way forward. Yet, whilst his claim that the NHS was ‘not working’ may not be fully wrong, he completely misread the British public’s reasons for marching. We are not standing up and advocating for change because we want to scrap free healthcare, but rather because we love the NHS. Personally, the NHS is one of the few reasons I am proud to be British. It is the hallmark of a progressive society. Who wouldn’t want the security of knowing any illness you may encounter will be treated regardless of your wealth, and you won’t be left out of pocket following a hospital trip? The NHS has undoubtedly saved lives since its conception in 1948, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so.
We are advocating for change because we love the NHS
That’s why seeing the recent headlines about the NHS winter crisis is so heart-breaking. At the beginning of January, emergency medicine consultants from 68 hospitals wrote a damning letter to Theresa May stating that patients are dying because the underfunded NHS simply cannot cope. Yet, instead of Hunt and May working to alleviate the problem, their apparent apathy has only seen the problem spiral further out of control. Official figures released last week show that more than a thousand patients were left 12 hours or more in trolleys whilst waiting for a hospital bed. For an apparently developed country, this is shocking. Those patients were someone’s grandmother, someone’s father, someone’s daughter, all seriously ill yet denied the quality care needed and expected. However, it is not the fault of healthcare professionals. Overstretched and overworked doctors and nurses, regularly working eight to twelve-hour long shifts, are also victims of the structural failings of today’s NHS. Their cries for help have been repeatedly ignored by the deliberately ignorant Hunt, who instead of ploughing more funding into the NHS, has instead implemented further austerity measures. Indeed, his recent announcement that nursing postgrads will no longer be exempt from tuition fees will clearly only exaggerate, not extenuate, the problem.
Cries for help have been repeatedly ignored by the deliberately ignorant government
His attitude towards hardworking NHS employees can be summed up by his recent statement that ‘when they signed up to go into medicine they knew there were going to be pressurised moments.’ This stance is so blasé and indifferent that it is almost unbelievable. The Health Secretary should be supporting healthcare workers, not undermining them by blaming their passion for medicine as a reason why they are stressed and unable to cope. Considering his background, this attitude is hardly surprising. Graduating from Oxford and subsequently working as a management consultant before founding a PR company, Hunt has never had to deal with the intensely stressful working conditions of healthcare professionals. Indeed, whilst the starting salary for a junior doctor is around £22,000, Hunt personally gained £14 million when selling his business in 2014. I’m not disputing his work ethic, but for someone with such wealth and privilege, it is hard to see how he can truly appreciate the work that doctors do. Lacking first-hand experience of hospital life, his lasting appointment is indicative of a government who no longer cares. At this stage, rumours of a cross-party Royal Commission into NHS funding are apparently Hunt’s only actions in resolving the crisis. Yet, this could all just be a hollow rumour. Even if a Royal Commission occurred, it could simply be masking lack of real-world action with talks that lead to nothing, putting off actually pumping money into the NHS for another day. Hunt needs to stand up and take direct action now or accept that his position is no longer tenable and resign – for the good of everyone.