For this blog I have foolishly chosen to stick my oar into an argument which couldn’t have been fought more passionately by either side: the junior doctor’s strike. Luckily, being a communications professional for scientific organisations, I can take a neutral line by discussing what I’ve found to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the argument: the messaging from opposing teams.
The debate focuses around a new contract that expands typical working hours for doctors on normal pay. This is done by reducing the times in a week that are classed as ‘antisocial’.
It has been a masterclass from the Department of Health (DoH) and Jeremy Hunt in spin, a word I’m using factually, with no connotations. He states that the NHS must be transformed into a seven-day a week service, a carefully constructed phrase with a wealth of hidden meanings, the main one implying that the NHS is a weekday only service. The questions this phrase raises are pretty major: How can a hospital service not be open 7 days a week? How much of the NHS does operate on the weekend? Will I have to wait until Monday to go to A&E? Why would junior doctors not provide a 7 day service?
Such a message has done a fantastic job of whipping up doubt amongst those who don’t know the ins and outs of hospital operations (i.e. the vast majority of the population) and successfully built a groundswell of anti-junior doctor sentiment that culminated in the infamous, classic low blow from The Sun: Moet Medics.
The junior doctor’s strategy at countering this is to try to clarify how the NHS operates currently, and counter the notion that come Saturday morning they’re sitting at home with a coffee and a paper. And they have done an equally good job at this too, thanks to some organic backlashes against The Sun and other’s. The #MoetMedic hashtag had doctors entertainingly showing off their champagne lifestyles of revision, early morning blood transfusions and Sunday evening A&E shifts.
The to and fro in the media has been riveting, hilarious, blood boiling and tear-inducing at times, all because of the importance of the debate to all of us. Whichever side you align yourself with, it’s been brilliant to see public, heartfelt debate going on in the press when many criticise politics for lacking substance and being a carousel of sound bites and PR puff. As a communications professional, I would have given my right arm to get involved with either campaign, for the sheer thrill of it. Only, though, if the NHS could re-attach it. Can it? I’ll check with Jeremy.
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