Jeremy Hunt had a harsh lesson in PR and media relations last weekend.
By angering hundreds of thousands of doctors and other health care workers with his profound lack of understanding of how the NHS is run, a massive campaign was launched.
Unfortunately for him, doctors have never been so media savvy.
It all started with an anonymous junior medic responding on Twitter after the Health Secretary had claimed in a speech last Thursday that a “Monday to Friday” culture existed in parts of the NHS and that the fault lay with doctors, consultants in particular. He insisted that patients were more likely to die if they were admitted at the weekend and gave the BMA six weeks to negotiate changes to working contracts for medical staff, with a threat that extra hours could be forced.
Like a red rag to a bull the medics decided to fight back.
With no acknowledgement that doctors need support services such as pharmacies, lab staff, porters and social workers to be available at weekends and a blatant refusal to accept professional advice from the BMA that this is where reforms need to be made to achieve his “seven day service”, a fast and furious twitter storm was unleashed.
Using the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy enraged medical staff were able to share pictures of themselves at work. By Saturday morning the hashtag had been used more than 17,000 times – immediate visual proof that doctors of all ranks do indeed work at weekends – and continued to trend for sometime.
It drew huge support from the public, with praise for the medics and derision for the Health Secretary, who was enjoying his parliamentary time off. Many joked that he wouldn’t be back in the office until Monday morning.
Now nearly a week since the storm began a new campaign has emerged – a Change.org petition – calling for Jeremy Hunt to resign.
He won’t be moving into PR.