Junior doctors have set up a permanent protest outside Jeremy Hunt’s headquarters at the Department of Health, saying they want to talk – all he has to do is come out and meet them.
Mr Hunt has been distinctly quiet. Tweets from the doctors involved indicate many other people have come to see them – but not the secretary of state himself.
Here’s one of the protesters, Rachel Clarke, on the situation:
I’ll be honest. My most militant act at home recently was staying up beyond midnight watching Parks and Recreation, with an actual cup of tea in my bedroom.
So why on earth have I just started a permanent protest outside the Department of Health, sitting in position at a table outside until Jeremy Hunt agrees to re-open talks? Why have I decided to stay there for 24 hours at a time, before swapping in other doctors to carry on the protest in 12-hour stints?
Because, in many ways, having Jeremy Hunt as my Secretary of State has begun to feel like dating the Wolf of Wall Street.
It’s not the physical charm – the ‘chiselled jaw’ and ‘lean, clean-cut, bedside manner’ – that left the last Mail journalist who interviewed Mr Hunt all aquiver. No, it’s being in a relationship with an individual whose smile never slips, whose patter never falters, as he promises you the world while blithely fleecing you.
Mr Hunt’s biggest sell, the ‘truly seven-day NHS’, is in effect a special offer on a subprime mortgage sitting at the heart of last year’s Conservative Election Manifesto. Seven for five. No, really, folks – seven for five. It’s the pledge that saves thousands of lives a year without costing you a penny.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, exactly. Every doctor and nurse in the NHS knows all too well that the government’s refusal to fund its manifesto soundbite downgrades its ‘pledge’ on seven-day services to just another junk bond. There are no cheapskate solutions for improving patient safety. But if anyone’s going to peddle them, Hunt is the consummate pro at polishing junk until it shines.
To add insult to injury – because no-one wants a genuine commitment to improved weekend services more than the junior doctors on the frontline of delivering them – we have to endure an extra layer of oleaginous doublespeak. You see, Jeremy Hunt’s office is an architectural miracle, possessing the most publicly open – yet resoundingly closed – door in the whole history of entrances.
For months now he’s been telling us that, for us, his door is always open, while simultaneously taking exquisite care not to be seen in public with a single junior doctor since this debacle began (other than the one he sprinted up a staircase to avoid).
You’ll appreciate our cynicism on finding out that the infamous door – never knowingly opened to any of us – has apparently just been slammed shut. That’s right. Two weeks before the UK’s first ever all-out doctors’ strike, Mr Hunt’s response to the crisis has been to close off any hope of dialogue with the curt statement that his door is now firmly ‘closed’.
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