Hunt’s medical qualifications
Our sparkling current health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, appears to have no education in health or medicine: he studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.
After university Hunt worked for two years as a management consultant at OC&C Strategy Consultants, and then decided to pursue life as an English language teacher in Japan…. On his return to Britain he tried his hand at a number of different entrepreneurial business ventures, including a failed attempt to export marmalade to Japan [*1]
He then joined a PR company, after that an educational listings company. He became an MP in 2005. After a spell enchanting everyone as secretary for culture, media and sport [*2] (a job title which clearly places culture where it belongs in our philistine country), he was appointed health secretary on 4 september 2012. The clear absence of any relevant or useful experience, training or understanding hasn’t prevented him from bestowing on the population his medical opinion on homeopathy and paediatric rashes with all the chutzpah of a would-be alpha male.
According to Tom Chivers in the Telegraph, in 2007, he signed an early day motion (EDM) which said, in part:
That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; … believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, [etc, the list goes on]… ; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets. [*3]
However, in a[n LBC] radio interview in September 2014, Hunt denied being a supporter and blamed his inexperience as a new MP for signing pro-homeopathy EDMs. [*1][*4]
Nevertheless, he also wrote to a concerned constituent,
Dear Mr Ellis,
Thank you very much for your letter regarding EDM 1240 in support of Homeopathic Hospitals. …
I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is “patient-led” it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient… [*3, my emphasis]
Presumably this letter was also written as a result of his inexperience as an MP.
It shouldn’t have to be said, just because something is “valued” by thousands of people, that it therefore works, or is of any benefit to the rest of the population (the estimated population of the UK in 2014 was 64.6 million [*5]).
One also marvels at Mr Hunt’s willingness to defer to doctors’ expertise in this case, given his willingness to impose a contract on doctors in the face of their collected expertise; and contrary to the “good practice” shown Mrs Nicky Morgan in imposing wide ranging demands on teachers, despite their collected expertise (for example, with respect to SPaG [spelling and grammar] tests for children). [*10]
Hunt’s rash advice
Meanwhile, in other news, Mr Hunt recently gave reckless and inadequate advice to people concerned about the rashes their children might have.
Hunt suggested concerned parents should google pictures of rashes on the internet to see if any of them were like their child’s.
This is as dangerous as it is stupid. It is literally, life threatening [*6]. Whilst it forms part of a different agenda—the putting online of the 111 out of hours phone service—it shows a massive lack of judgement not only of the risk to children, but also of the risk to himself (presumably the object of his greatest affection), given that it is inconceivable that he could, under the current circumstances, have expressed this idea in any way that wouldn’t have brought down opprobrium and ridicule on his head.
It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it, as Maurice Switzer probably said [*7].
As Dr Amrita Jesurasa wrote in the Independent: So, for Jeremy Hunt, our own Secretary of State for Health, to put children’s lives at risk with a throwaway comment suggesting parents should search the internet for images to diagnose their own child’s rash before seeking medical care is beyond reckless. …
However, despite all of this, not a single GP, A&E doctor, paediatric doctor or public health specialist would ever suggest taking a chance with a child with a rash.
Sadly, Mr Hunt’s latest comment follows a worrying and highly dangerous pattern of scaremongering, driving vulnerable people away from seeking medical care urgently and when they need it most – people with suspected strokes, pregnant women, and now the parents of young children.
For all these reasons, please don’t listen to our Health Secretary – because, put simply, he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. [*8, my emphasis]
This is from an article, by a doctor, which explains what happens when an infection such as meningococcal disease in a child is insufficiently quickly diagnosed.
The child dies.
So Hunt would have parents of a child with this disease faffing around with Google when the child needed to be in hospital? Maybe not. But how does the parent know which rashes permit them to indulge in a bit of playing on the computer and which demand an immediate call to 999?
This advice was “potentially fatal” according to the charity Meningitis now:
To suggest that people look for an online diagnosis for a rash, rather than seek medical help, could have serious consequences for anyone who has contracted meningitis. We know that swift action saves lives and significantly improves the outcome for people who have the disease. To advise people to delay seeking medical advice when they see a rash in favour of comparing their rash with online images is a serious error of judgement by the Health Secretary and advice that should simply be ignored. [*9].
As Dr Jesurasa writes, above, “not a single GP, A&E doctor, paediatric doctor or public health specialist would ever suggest taking a chance with a child with a rash”. There are no circumstances whatsoever where someone, wholly lacking training in, experience of or understanding about medicine, should presume to give medical advice to others in public. It is completely unacceptable.
I am not arguing that, to be a successful health secretary, you reed to have thirty years’ experience practising as a doctor. As John Reid said, when he was a labour government minister, “It’s not my job to manage this department—it’s my job to lead this department” [*11]. I am suggesting that some experience would be very helpful. But, in the absence of even that, a degree of humility and respect towards those who do know what they are talking about (whether it is rashes or the effects on patients of doctors’ shift patterns) and to whom the minister, in theory, is actually in service, would be a good idea.
We also need politicians with a degree of maturity, some ability to think thoughtfully about what they say and do, and some ability to say and do useful things. To be honest, Mr Hunt is a million miles away from any of this; probably knows it; and probably doesn’t care. He is, after all, doing the job he was told to do (damaging the NHS) and, no doubt, he will be rewarded handsomely in due course.
[*1] Wikipedia entry on Jeremy Hunt
[*2] Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary: are you kidding? (Tom Chivers, comment piece, the Telegraph, 4 september 2012)
[*3] Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, thinks homeopathy works (Tom Chivers, comment piece, the Telegraph, 4 september 2012)
[*4] Hunt asked: why does NHS spend £50m on homeopathy? (excerpt from broadcast, 10 september 2014, LBC)
[*5] Overview of the UK population (Office for national statistics)
[*6] Jeremy Hunt’s advice to parents ‘could put lives at risk’, doctors say (Ashley Cowburn, news item, the Independent, 31 january 2016)
[*7] Better to remain… (Quote investigator, an excellent site)
[*8] Jeremy Hunt, the two most horrifying moments of my career as a doctor started with a child and a rash (Amrita Jesurasa, comment piece, the Independent, 1 february 2016)
[*9] Don’t Google a rash (Meningitis now website, 1 february 2016)
[*10] Dear Ms Morgan: in grammar there isn’t always one right answer (Michael Rosen, comment piece, the Guardian, 3 november 2015)
[*11] In an interview on BBC television news, 23 may 2006, of the Home Office (he also said in the same interview that he did not believe it was, “intrinsically dysfunctional… but I do believe from time to time it is dysfunctional in the sense it doesn’t work”). Source: Wikiquote
© 2016 Jeremy Marchant . amended 21 april 2016 . image: Free images