Jeremy Hunt, Social Media and the Future of the NHS

I honestly think that this is the most important piece that I have ever written. It is a little longer than most and will take you five or six minutes to read. It contains many links so may be a useful starting point if you are interested in further reading. If you don’t have time now please save it and come to it later, perhaps with a glass of your preferred tipple. You can then take time to read the most important links (in RED) and consider the implications more carefully. If you like it and agree with my conclusions then please share it with others. Above all – make sure that you take note of what you can do personally to help in the fight to save the NHS.


Wow what a week. Jeremy Hunt offended hospital consultants with unfounded claims of laziness and greed leading to the deaths of 6,000 people. The doctors responded with a Twitter campaign (#ImInWorkJeremy) which trended all weekend in the UK and they started an e-petition for his dismissal.  This reached the 100,000 signatures required to trigger a parliamentary debate in less than 36 hours. The government response to the petition was dismissive and inflammatory and the docs started to realise a debate is not mandated. HuntMAINAll of this was largely ignored by the national media except for a brilliantly funny piece on Channel 4s The Last Leg . Significantly this piece was triggered by social media using their #IsItOK tag. A second Twitter campaign (#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy – which was started by me) trended again with 45,000 tweets and a social reach of over 125,000,000. What a rollercoaster of a week – the power of social media at its best. At last politicians will sit up and take notice and the NHS will be saved. But actually the likelihood is that it will make no difference at all – or worse it could strengthen the government position.   The hugely successful #CameronMustGo campaign last year rumbled on for weeks but he and the majority of the press ignored it and eventually it went away. It did no long term harm to his reputation or ability to push through policy. It did not stop him increasing his majority in the last election. What does not kill us makes us stronger and I suspect the experience will have made him less susceptible to being influenced by current and future social media campaigns. When the #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy campaign fizzles out – as eventually it must – it will leave Mr Hunt tougher and more resilient, unless there are permanent and significant consequences for his career. We have started a battle that we cannot afford to lose. It is absolutely essential that Mr Hunt and indeed all politicians of all parties realise that they cannot ride roughshod over such strong public opinion and get away unscathed. He must be publicly taken down a peg or two as an example to the others. CKst5k8W8AAcDx-I am not by nature a vindictive person and I am a little uncomfortable about this approach but I have managed to rationalise it. He is not stupid so we assume his actions are deliberate. He used dodgy statistics to undermine the NHS and promote fear in our patients for political purposes. He used the same, by then discredited, statistics again in the response to the petition. He lied about doctors’ salaries, numbers of consultants using the contract to opt out and the consequences for the NHS. He is on record as wanting to dismantle the NHS and hand it over to the private sector. Even the timing of his attack on the NHS could be seen as cynical – just before the recess so he can keep his head down for 6 weeks until the dust settles. I really think his actions were deliberately intended to provoke a  strong reaction from clinical staff that can be spun by the press against us over the summer break. I have thought about it long and hard and have concluded that he has to go. Why is this issue suddenly so important? I described the inevitable decline and fall of the NHS if we do nothing in a series of three blogs published last year.  I have summarised each in a sentence below but I strongly recommend that you take the time to read them. They are important for your understanding the magnitude of the current threat.

The Jeremy Hunt affair could be seen as the start of this public engagement process. So what should we do next? If we do nothing the dust will settle and this week’s activities will come to nothing. The government will continue their current policy and the NHS as we understand it will be dismantled and degraded. We need to increase the pressure on Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron, but without overreacting or doing anything that could damage the reputation of doctors and the rest of the NHS in the eyes of the public. We have to be professional and measured – but resolute and firm. Marches and demonstration are not very effective. The press has a record of ignoring even the biggest. They are transient and can easily be misreported to work against us. We need to focus on the use of social media to coordinate a prolonged campaign directed primarily at politicians but with the press and public firmly in mid. 1410052032-peoples-march-and-rally-for-the-nhs-ends-in-london_5688700 My suggestions:-

  • All the pro NHS pressure groups should combine forces to coordinate a campaign to “Save the NHS”.
  • The campaign should have a unique brand and an identity.
  • It should focus on the plight of the NHS rather than individuals and should target all politicians though we should not forget the Jeremy Hunt issue for the reasons outlined above.
  • We should seek high profile sponsors, raise money and invest in press and media advertising campaigns. The press may not cover the story as news but they certainly will for cash.
  • It is absolutely crucial that we achieve the debate in parliament. Failure to get this will be a major catastrophe with dire implications for the NHS.
  • We should continue the #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy campaign as long as possible – make sure that people look in every day, post their own tweets and share the best of the rest.
  • We should continue to encourage people to sign the petition. Size is everything with this sort of thing. Just think of the power of a million signatures.
  • We should promote other social media platforms. The Big Up the NHS Facebook group has 28,000 members and has real influence. Facebook is less ephemeral than Twitter. My blog calling for the resignation of Mr Hunt was read by 40,000 people and 80% of the referrals came from Facebook.
  • We should target all politicians in all parties directly using social media, email and postal campaigns.

I am sure there will be more suggestion and I welcome any comments or ideas. You can post them here or email me at admin@bigupthenhs.com. Please do not underestimate the seriousness of the situation and make sure that YOU do something to help. Spread the word, join the groups, and sign the petition. Make sure that when you are considering having to buy your first health insurance policy that you do not reflect on first reading this blog and wish you had done more. Steve Smith Big Up the NHS.

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23 comments

  1. I work in the NHS as a technician in a microbiology lab, and am a member of the National Health Action Party. I recently attended a talk given by Dr Jacky Davis and Dr David Wrigley (of Keep Our NHS Public, and the authors of ‘NHS SOS’ & ‘NHS For Sale’), and as well as being energise to continue the fight, I came away convinced of the need to form and present a united front.

    There is so little accurate coverage in the mainstream media that the comparatively small numbers campaigning from within relatively disparate groups are perhaps struggling to make themselves heard. Off the top of my head I can think of:

    – The National Health Action Party

    – Keep Our NHS Public

    – NHS Supporters Federation

    – NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015

    – Big Up The NHS

    to say nothing of Unite, Unison and the various other professional representative bodies. The groups may use different tactics, but we are all fighting the same battle. There are no doubt many people who belong to, and campaign under the banners of, two or more of these and other groups. I believe that by joining together we would not simply add to our strength, but multiply it.

    Whilst I shudder at thoughts of branding and marketing (having suffered them at work), I do appreciate that they can be a means to an end, and an effective tool if used with skill and subtlety. I don’t think a crude merge of all the groups into a single entity is desirable or necessary, but the formation of a co-operative bloc certainly is. Whilst celebrities for the sake of celebrities would also be unwelcome, there are many high-profile people who care as passionately about the NHS as we do, and whose fame could be utilised to spread our message.

    Dr David Wrigley also highlighted the need for advertising campaigns, pointing out quite rightly that the trade unions could and should be using their not insignificant financial muscle to counteract the falsehoods disseminated in the mainstream media.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Politicians have no right to help themselves to the N.H.S. It is our money that built it. All of us who have worked all our lives have contributed to it. It is OURS not theirs.
    If – after all said and done – it is sold off to private enterprise, will our contributions be reduced to reflect this? And if not, what will happen to that portion of the money which would have supported the N.H.S? I suspect I know the answers to these rhetorical questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pro NHS pressure groups and the campaign should be called something else I suggest. The Francis Report was born from a Save the NHS slogan so may resonate with many as the NHS failing. Save the PEOPLES NHS may have more impact? Great piece!

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  4. Over the next 6 weeks there will be approximately 5 million GP consultations across 9000 practices and a lot of hospital consultations (crude figures). 9000 waiting room posters would cost very little and reach a huge audience (I’m sure most practices would print and display for free). Move fast and we have an audience throughout the entire recess. Media would then be free if 5 million people know what we know. Someone light the fuse now with a social media detonation set for the return of Parliament.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The Torys have been clever. They have attacked so many groups and organisations in one hit that people are shell shocked in a way? The disabled, the unemployed, uni students, the young, public services, pensions, unions, ability to protest, privacy and of course the NHS. I’m sure I’ve missed some! As another suggestion can people please badger the four Labour Party leadership candidates to say they will adopt the NHS reinstatement bill? That would gain some press coverage? Especially if most were pushed into saying yes. I suspect Corbyn is already in favour.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Stop complaining and start doing hard work like the rest of us. The decline in NHS service is due to to much money being paid to doctors and middle management. Cut the fat out, like every private business has had to do to survive. Stop moaning and start supporting.

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    1. Classic Daily Mail view. It is this sort of ignorant mindset that is holding this campaign back at the moment. It is a sad truth that vast numbers of the British populous have already succumbed to the brain washing spin of Hunt and the right wing press. NHS doctors and management are NOT paid too much. The financial problems run so so much deeper than that. It is exactly this sort of scapegoating that will do nothing except to undermine public opinion of our incredible NHS workers. It is exactly this sort of scapegoating that HAS to STOP if we are to make any progress.

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    2. The best response your comments deserve is to be ignored. But just in case you miss the point, please note I am treating your squalid piffle with the contempt it deserves

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  7. Had an idea today -not sure if it is soon enough but the next Question time is on the 17th of September in London. Can as many doctors/nurses/healthcare professionals as possible all request to be part of the audience and ask questions of the future of the NHS and the future of Jeremy Hunt. If enough of us ask the question perhaps we can start forcing the issue into the main stream press.
    It may well be that new contract will be unveiled by then so will be pretty topical.

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    1. That’s an excellent idea ! The main problem for the public is media apathy and media lies.. re the dire consequences to the mass UK population if we have to pay for medical care !

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  8. Hello

    Maybe a campaign could involve a mass refusal to pay the BBC the tv license fee until they start covering the peoples perspective of what is really going on with the government and the NHS. What a Tory legacy..
    Privatise the NHS to pay back private donations (investments) that got Cameron into government…who actually voted for this?

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  9. Just want to emphasise the HUGE importance of creating a single umbrella organisation for protecting the NHS from attack. This is an urgent need, and must be done despite all the usual petty differences that divide groups. And the people who will make that happen (or not) are the active members of those groups. So go to your meetings and demand it happens!!

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  10. I want to keep an NHS that offers treatment free at the point of delivery. The issue is that the cost is rising giving a real opportunity to the privatisers.

    Maybe they may want to privatise but will struggle. Sadly they are being actively aided and abetted by a management culture stuck in the 60’s. If the efficiency of the NHS had grown at a reasonable -2% – each year there would be an additional 80% of capacity. If it had grown at 4% – the current target – there would be 2.5 times the capacity. Pick on those numbers if you wish; the point is that modest efficiencies produce large changes over time. We pay half what we did for twice the car in the 60’s.

    Yet everyone involved wants a grand gesture – privatisation, remove the competition elements. Do a BIG THING. They could just do practical effective things instead. Actually if the managers woke up every morning and focussed on improving efficiency then the NHS will power away from any threat and deliver more care of better quality and reduce the stupid stresses put on staff running daft services to hit a childish management target.

    The management are a bit naïve. They just reduce the cost and quality of many different services. It’s so stupid it looks like a teenager is running the place. Retail, the car industry, aerospace, agriculture and many other organisations have managed to increase efficiency a great deal. But NHS management really is in denial about the possibility of delivering a change in a thousand little things that amounts to a game changing value. Any talk of efficiency is seen as tantamount to slavery. IT isn’t. Most well run organisations know that a regular focus on efficiency and effectiveness keeps quality up and cost down as well as improving staff conditions.

    It doesn’t need a reorganisation of much more than the attitude of everyone – but mainly managers (and pundits) in primary and secondary care. To get up every morning and use the same tools and approaches used elsewhere to improve efficiency. Not just slash and burn proper methodical approaches. Dull but effective approaches.

    So guess what? The Tories may be out to privatise the NHS or maybe they just want to do what the electorate knew they would do and make the place run better. But man they are getting a huge help from this sort of approach. A bureaucracy that sees “Gimme more dosh!” as the only way to make things better.

    I suspect that most of the electorate knew what they were doing when they voted last time. So could the NHS please stop feeling sorry for itself, could it please stop thinking that anyone gets that fooled by the Tories’ “clever tricks”. Is it possible that white van man and all the rest of the electorate are smart enough to believe that it’s time to change. And Jeremy is their way of telling you!

    Please make it a positive change by listening to the voters and focus on giving us more for less.

    Get off that high horse and find out how other organisations deliver real efficiency and start doing that.

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  11. Get rid of the emotion, be pragmatic and focus on the making small improvements. Listen to the staff – they know how to make the service more efficient. This is exactly what the public need.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. In order to get greater traction with the public, I believe you need to take the petty, sneering attacks out of the campaign (whether perceived or real), it just alienates potential supporters of your campaign.

    Even if you think the “Tories” are the anti-christ, saying it isn’t going to get what you want, as cognitive dissonance will mean people will reject your arguments and leave us all worse of. Why alienate a Tory or any voter who potentially could support and nudge the Conservatives to do the right thing by the NHS.

    Lets stick to facts, and act with reasoned argument.

    The Jeremy says: “Too many Consultants don’t work weekends.
    The Reality: 4,356 consultants & 3 (yes 3) opted out of working weekends
    = #JeremyNeedsToUnderstandTheNHS

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  13. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would value your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.|

    Like

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