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Not the right kind of tree-hugger: This is an artist's impression of what Jeremy Hunt looked like, hiding behind a tree to avoid being seen going to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch.

Not the right kind of tree-hugger: This is an artist’s impression of what Jeremy Hunt looked like, hiding behind a tree to avoid being seen going to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch.

Don’t get your hopes up too high.

The debate on whether Jeremy Hunt should get the boot will take place on Monday (September 14), but is taking place as a result of a petition on the government’s website – meaning nothing is likely to come of it, even if the vote is in favour of his removal.

Remember the debate on the first ‘Wow’ petition? The demand for a cumulative impact assessment on all cuts and changes affecting sick and disabled people, made by the then-Coalition Government. The motion was passed resoundingly – and the Coalition Government did nothing. There has been no such assessment. David Cameron’s aides said the vote was “advisory”.

Still, the exposure certainly won’t do Mr Hunt, the well-known Murdoch minion and humorous misprint, any good at all.

The petition, created by Dr Ash Sadighi, states that “Jeremy Hunt has alienated the entire workforce of the NHS by threatening to impose a harsh contract and conditions on first consultants and soon the rest of the NHS staff” and calls for a vote of ‘no confidence’. It has attracted 219,488 signatures – more than double the 100,000 required, well ahead of its January 20, 2016 deadline.

The Conservative Government has already responded to the petition with a lengthy justification of the decision to require contractual changes that will worsen the conditions of work for NHS staff. You can read it here.

It is interesting that this statement contradicts itself by suggesting that, in order to counter the claimed fact that, “if you are admitted to hospital on a weekend, you have a 16 per cent greater chance of dying”, the government wanted to end a contract “that allows senior doctors to refuse to work non-emergency work in the evenings, at nights and at weekends” [italics mine].

That’s non-emergency work. Obviously, life-threatening conditions don’t come under this category and so ending this contract would do nothing to alleviate the problem that has been identified.

What, then, would be the reason for worsening the conditions for medical staff?

Could it be another attempt to “sour the milk” at the NHS, making it less attractive for medical staff in order to scare away the talented physicians that are needed in order to make the system work?

Could it be that the long-term aim is to make private healthcare a more attractive option – to both staff and patients – despite the increased personal costs that this involves?

This seems likely.

But of course, this issue is only one of many in which the Health Secretary has demonstrated his incompetence. Remember the series of inaccurate (to the point of being laughable, if the consequences weren’t so dangerous for patients) statements he issued on Twitter at the beginning of the year?

Remember his confession that he would rather burden Accident and Emergency departments with non-emergency concerns affecting his family, rather than wait for an appointment with a doctor?

There is no mention of these in the Conservative Government’s response to this petition, even though they also create serious concern about the abilities of this man.

Let us hope that Mr Hunt’s inadequacies are fully aired on Monday. Feel free to contact your MP if you want particular issues raised.

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