Sunday, 19 July 2015

#ImInWorkJeremy - Hashtag Before The Story


Jeremy Hunt has done something very foolish, as a politician. He has had the temerity to suggest that something needs to change in the NHS. The National Health Service has become so sacrosanct that to criticise it is to commit heresy, even treason. This crime knows no limits. For example, the blame of the Mid Staffs scandal was laid at the feet of the Labour Government. While the Government is ultimately responsible, the fact that the NHS did not put their hands up was a sign that the organisation seems to think it is beyond questioning. 

To make things worse, Jeremy Hunt did not call doctors lazy. This is what the #ImInWorkJeremy hashtag accuses him of. He didn't. Allow me to share what he did say:
"One litmus test of our commitment to this is our approach to 7-day care. This is not about increasing the total number of hours worked every week by any individual doctor. Doctors already work extremely hard, and their hours should always be within safe limits. But we will reform the consultant contract to remove the opt-out from weekend working for newly qualified hospital doctors. No doctors currently in service will be forced to move onto the new contracts, although we will end extortionate off-contract payments for those who continue to exercise their weekend opt-out. Every weekend swathes of doctors go in to the hospital to see their patients, driven by professionalism and goodwill, but in many cases with no thanks or recognition. The aim is to acknowledge that professionalism by putting their contributions on a formalised footing through a more patient and professionally orientated contract. As a result of these changes by the end of the Parliament, I expect the majority of hospital doctors to be on 7-day contracts."
To paraphrase what Hunt actually said, there are a number of consultants who use an opt-out for weekends. This is set to be removed. That's it. Did he say doctors were lazy? "Doctors already work extremely hard" was the phrase used. Does he want doctors to work more hours? "Their hours should always be within safe limits" was the line used. If more consultants have to work weekends, surely the burden will be more evenly spread out? Am I the only who can see that?
You see, this has become the way we inform ourselves. We trust a hashtag more than the story. Hunt wants to change the NHS but the easiest way to sabotage any political will to do that is with a hyperbolic hashtag. Yet we have become a society that won't look deeper. We won't inform ourselves. We take that sensationalistic Facebook post and share it without hesitation. If it's wrong, we'll wait for someone else to check Snopes or to Google it. Yet, we are the generation that does not have that excuse.
There is a common joke that a man from 100 years ago would find out that we each possessed a smart phone, a device that can give us a vast wealth of knowledge and information. He then asks us what do we look at first. Our answer would be "Funny videos of cats." That's how pathetic and lazy we have become. The fact that we entertain this hashtag shows we are interested in the headline first and the story never.
As for the NHS staff who indulged in such a practice, taking selfies with this hashtag, I will put that down to you being too busy to check the text of the speech. After all, like the Health Secretary said, you work extremely hard. He said you were professionals who didn't get sufficient recognition. You lot decide to burn him in public. Why? Because he wanted to take a clause out of a contract that was unfair and costly. Boo-fricking-hoo. The NHS is so resistant to outside change that if it was a patient, it would be an anti-vax type, afraid of the side effects of a treatment that could save it from something deadly. However, it's not just the NHS that should take a long, hard look at itself. We all should. In an era of vast information and instant access to it, we should be more informed. We should take that responsibility upon ourselves. If our understanding of the world and the way it has become is reduced to 140 characters, or worse, a hashtag, then we can be put into one very simple trend. That would be #ImWithStupid.

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