Junior doctors' strike: James O'Brien attacks right-wing media stories criticising doctors

The LBC radio presenter criticised right-wing media coverage of doctors in a passionate speech

Siobhan Fenton
Thursday 10 March 2016 12:54
James O'Brien launched a passionate critique of negative media coverage of hospitals which coincided with the ongoing junior doctors strike
James O'Brien launched a passionate critique of negative media coverage of hospitals which coincided with the ongoing junior doctors strike

James O’Brien has launched a passionate attack on negative press coverage of the medical profession as junior doctors begin the second day of the 48-hour strike today.

The LBC radio host criticised right-wing media outlets for seemingly failing to cover the strike and instead appearing to ‘coincidently’ run articles criticising doctors. Yesterday, The Daily Mail ran a story accusing hospitals of failing women and sending them home too soon after giving birth. The Times also ran a front page story headlined, ‘Blundering doctors get protection from blame’ speculating that new reporting rules could result in NHS cover ups.

Speaking on his programme, Mr O’Brien said: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist but if you honestly think The Mail and The Times have both ended up with front page stories which enable them to sort of point over there and say ‘Look, some dodgy doctors over there. Don’t mention the strike.’

“If you think that’s a coincidence that both of these stories appear in the two most prominent right wing newspapers in the country on the day that a publicly supported junior doctors strike is unfolding for 48 hours, then I doff my cap to you because that’s some forelock-tugging, it really is absolutely breathless forelock-tugging you’ve got there, Sir, or Madam.”

Mr O’Brien continued: “Is there a strike today? Let’s have a look at the front of The Times; no strike there. The Daily Express if banging on about the EU; no surprise there. For The Telegraph, any mention of the strike there? No but there’s a cold sore that’s linked to Alzheimer’s if you are looking for some health news. Why?”

He suggested that the media coverage perhaps meant that media outlets had realised the public supported the strikes and instead of criticising junior doctors directly were now ignoring the strike and instead stirring up negative coverage of doctors on other issues to undermine the profession more generally. He said: “On the previous days that the doctors’ strike was unfolding, they couldn’t get enough of it, could they? They couldn’t get enough of telling you how little trust you should have in these ‘disgusting, meddling, blundering medics… Today it’s like a sort of empty fag packet; they’ve got nothing left at all. They’ve done their best and the public, for once, have refused to swallow it.”

The strike has been organised by doctors after a prolonged dispute about new contract conditions. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued that a seven-day-a-week NHS will reduce weekend mortality rates. However, doctors have disputed this and claimed that the contract conditions are unfair and would result in lower care standards.

A poll for the BBC revealed that 65 per cent of people support the strikes. The percentage of people who say they are opposed to the strikes has dropped from 22 per cent to 17 per cent since last month.

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