Doctors, eh? You can’t find anyone more selfish in society

It’s just strike, strike, strike with them: they had one 40 years ago; and now, before the dust has even settled, they’re having another

A common complaint about modern politicians is that they lack the talent of the great figures of the past. That is why we must admire the genius of Jeremy Hunt. When he was Culture Secretary he managed to anger almost everybody, including people who couldn’t care less about culture, and after a few months as Health Secretary he’s enraged almost every doctor in Britain.

If he became Minister for Circuses, by the end of the week there’d be a clown strike. If he was head of the Church of England, within a fortnight we’d see the first national church organists’ riot, led by 83-year-old Conservative voter Eileen Tidbury from Guildford – who would state she was proud to be arrested for using the organ pipes from Westminster Abbey as a battering ram against Hunt’s office. And Reverend Armthorpe of Cheltenham would become a hero for leading the choir in a chorus of “Jeremy Hunt the arrogant…” during a recording of Songs of Praise.

It’s an amazing skill. He could use it to create a music-hall act called “The Great Infuriato”, the man capable of winding up anyone, with a grand finish in which he spends two minutes with the Hare Krishnas, who then scream “you great tosspot” and smash him in the face with a tambourine.

Many of us, if we made a proposal that caused almost every doctor to spit with fury and support a strike, might develop a whiff of self-doubt. But luckily Jeremy Hunt is a true leader. Instead, he has decided to anger them even more, by ending the discussion and imposing the new weekend hours on them. He’s a true perfectionist, and a mark of any healthy society is that all its doctors are fuming with rage and depressed.

The reason he’s imposing this settlement, he says, is that “we have to have resolution”; after all, “most people want a resolution”. This is true, and a similar approach to disagreements is one of the great strengths of the Mafia. Whatever else you say about them, they don’t allow conflicts to drag on and on. Many people in Sicily say: “We had a difference of opinion about protection money, so they burned my house down. It was a bit of a nuisance as now I live in a public toilet, but at least we had a resolution and that’s the main thing.”

Hunt also claimed opposition to his plans among junior doctors was waning, as 43 per cent of them went to work on the day of the strike. It could be argued this figure is misleading, as it includes all the doctors on emergency cover who hadn’t even been called out on strike. But that’s just being picky. In fact, if you include the junior doctors who turned up for work in France and Morocco and Argentina, and all the people who went to work at Asda that day, then the figure is even lower.

One Conservative adviser explained in The Times that the “moderate” doctors must “defeat the militants” in this issue. It’s easy to see what he means: for too long the doctors have gone along with the extremist minority 98 per cent who oppose the plans, rather than the 2 per cent who represent the moderate centre ground. This is how the militants of the British Medical Association get their way, the anarchist Marxists. It’s just strike, strike, strike with them: they had one 40 years ago; and now, before the dust has even settled, they’re having another. 

Junior Doctors Contract: What's in it and why are people so angry about it?

One typical militant is Naadir Ansari, a doctor whose shifts had left him so exhausted that, as he put it: “I found myself in a corridor talking to a person who wasn’t there.” But maybe this is where a compromise can be reached, with doctors earning bonuses for operations they carry out on patients who aren’t really there, when they’re hallucinating because they’ve not slept for three days. 

In any case, we should be grateful that the people working so long they’re talking to mirages are only doctors, and not anyone doing something important.

Another coherent argument came from Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation. He stated, quite clearly, that the “BMA proposal removed from the cost envelope that we both have to work within, proposals which would pay doctors in our most shortage specialities emergency more money, the BMA rejected that and took it outside the cost envelope.” What a shame the rest of the medical profession doesn’t speak such plain common sense. It would be so reassuring, if you were undergoing an operation, to hear the surgeon saying: “The gall stones require removing and remaining inside and outside the kidney envelope up on the down intestine pint of mustard within the realm of the cough medicine envelope”.

Then there’s the unanswerable argument that the percentage of people who die after going to hospital at weekends is higher than the percentage who go on a weekday. Some people suggest this is because you wouldn’t go at the weekend unless you were more seriously ill, so the percentage that die if they go to hospital on Christmas Day will be even higher, and the percentage that die if they go to hospital on the morning of their wedding is huge. But if someone points this out, Hunt will insist every doctor works Christmas Day and all morning on any day when there’s a wedding.  

Because for too long now we’ve rewarded the selfish in society, such as those people who train to be doctors, whose only thought is to flaunt their wealth having made no contribution apart from the odd operation. It’s time, at last, to offer overdue assistance to the unsung heroes of professions such as investment banking, who toil away with barely a thought for themselves – even on a Saturday – and have never once asked for a penny more.

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