Is The UK Government Banning Mainstream Media From Reporting On One Of The Most Important Stories Of The Year?

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I often ask myself where our society would be without social media these days. It’s become the way to keep in touch with friends and family, see hilarious (some not so much!) pictures and videos, promote businesses films and music….. Social media has also become an invaluable tool for free speech. Something that the mainstream media (TV, Radio, Newspapers) seems to have lost its grip on a while ago.

In my previous article I briefly talked about how our media is paying little or no attention to the storm surrounding Jeremy Hunt’s atrocious attack on NHS staff. That was over the weekend, and I honestly expected that when I woke up Monday morning it would be the top story on most, if not all respectable news outlets. Boy was I wrong!

#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

The reason I had such high expectations was because on Sunday 26th July #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy came to life on Twitter. Similar to its predecessor #ImInWorkJeremy, this hashtag was designed to bring together all the thoughts and feelings of the Health Secretary’s latest attempt to undermine our heath service, only this time it was more open to everyone else, as well as doctors and nurses. And boy did this thing come to life! Just one look using this hashtag lead feed showed you exactly what the people of this great country think of a man in charge of the NHS who has no qualifications to be doing so. There was much made of the petition to call for a vote of No Confidence. Awareness was rising. The nation was showing huge interest in this story. As I sit here even now, people continue to spread the word.

So if social media was alive and buzzing, what was the traditional mainstream media doing? Answer: NOTHING. On the radio, TV, websites affiliated with these broadcasters, nothing. And I don’t understand why. Surely the job of the national media and news companies are to report on stories that are in the public interest of this country? I can think of no other story, right now, that is more in the public interest than the future of its health service. Why are they not talking about this?

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Screenshotof The Last Leg YouTube channel, 23:36, Monday 27/07/2015

The only mainstream media outlet that I have seen talk openly on this story was Channel 4’s The Last Leg, where Its host Adam Hills went off on one of his trademark rants calling out Mr. Hunt for his remarks. During this you could practically hear the entire NHS workforce applauding and cheering ‘finally, someone gets it. At last people are listening’. The weird thing is that what usually happens after one of Mr. Hills rants is they are uploaded to the shows YouTube channel. At the time of writing this, that brilliantly succinct rant has not been uploaded.

The biggest disappointment for me in all this has been the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation has said not one word. There has been nothing on their TV or radio stations, or on their website. We all know that the BBC has its own issues with the current government, especially ahead of the Royal Charter review, but if a corporation designed to entertain and inform is not going to report on one of the most important and relevant stories in the country right now, then what’s the point of its existence? And I’m saying this as someone who loves the BBC. Sherlock, Doctor Who, Fiona Bruce, Jeremy Vine – these are all regulars in our house, and I dread the day that the Beeb is taken from us. Why they have not reported a word of a story that is practically on their doorstep is beyond me, and if I was a conspiracy theorist I would be saying that the Government is stopping them from doing their job, gagging them. But that couldn’t be happening, not in a free and democratic country, right?

Screenshot of BBC News Website (Health) 00:36 Tuesday 27/07/2015. Also no mention on Top Stories or UK News sections.

Screenshotof BBC News Website (Health) 00:36 Tuesday 27/07/2015. Also no mention on Top Stories or UK News sections.

There has been some signs of hope in all this. The Mirror newspaper has posted a story just recently on Labour Leadership Candidate Andy Burnham, and his intent to pledge a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt. This is the first national newspaper that has openly mentioned not only the petition, but also the 200,000+ signatures. Interestingly the Guardian have also published a story on Mr. Burnham, ahead of the same press conference on Tuesday 28th July. In their story they make a point of saying that Mr, Burnham, currently Shadow Health Secretary, will be talking on the 70th anniversary of the year that a Labour government that created the NHS came in to power. It then quickly goes on to dissect Mr. Burnham’s role in the Labour leadership battle (which is totally newsworthy) but mentions nothing of the fact that he will be voting No Confidence in his Conservative counterpart when parliament resumes. Once again, a media blackout on the part of the story that affects an entire nation.

Mirror is first national newspaper to talk about petition for vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt,

Mirror is first national newspaper to talk about petition for vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt,

The media will always have an agenda, an angle when it comes to reporting a story. This is something that, as we have become more media savvy over time, we have also come to accept. What is unacceptable is when the traditional media say nothing on a story. When they just keep quiet on a subject like this that is so important to everyone, you have to wonder why. Is there some kind of conspiracy here? Whatever the answer it appears that TV and radio (and much of the printed press) is not up to doing its job, so it’s down to us. We must keep going on social media – our tweets, posts, links etc. are working. The petition is well past 203,000 signatures, and it will only continue to grow if we keep chatting about it. Keep the pressure on, and this Government has to listen. After all, we elected them in to power – we gave them their jobs, they work for us. Not for themselves or the highly profitable private companies they’re chums with, us. These people are our representatives and so far they are not listening to us (Andy Burnham accepted).

If we don’t ensure that this latest attack on our health service is taken seriously, there will come a day where you won’t be able to go to A&E without a credit card. A day when new parents won’t be able to walk out of a maternity ward with their baby without paying a charge at the exit. That’s not us, that’s not what the UK is.

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UPDATED: Monday 28/07/2015 – 22:00

Not long after this post was first published, at 9am this morning The Last Leg finally uploaded that rant of Adam Hills towards Mr. Hunt. It is unclear why it took three and a half days to do so, but finally more attention is being drawn to the attack of the Health Secretary on the Health Service.

In print the New Statesman is the first publication to openly talk about the feelings of NHS staff since the initial reaction after Mr. Hunt announced his intentions to enforce new contracts, and insulted the entire workforce. #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy is highlighted and explains in great detail the reasons why the medical profession is so angry with its boss,

In the rest of TV land, and in all of radio, silence. Thankfully, as we see here, cracks are beginning to show in the media blackout. Word is getting out, people are talking, and it will be a grave social injustice if after everything I have talked about, at the very least, Jeremy Hunt is not removed from his post as Secretary for Health.

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Stand Up For Our NHS, Or Really Pay The Price

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A couple of nights ago I was sat with Wife O’ Mine watching DIY SOS. You know the show – Nick Knowles finds a family that’s been through the mill and basically gives them a new house, all with the help of willing volunteers who step to the plate simply to help. The family see the house, they cry, we, the audience cry. We cry because we remember that there is always someone going through a worse time than us, and it makes us grateful for what we have. I also think we cry because DIY SOS, as contrived as some may say it is, represents the best of us – complete strangers pitching in to help other complete strangers. For free. Because it’s the right thing to do.

With that in mind, here’s a video clip I’d like you to watch. It’s about eight minutes long, so please make sure you have the time, if not now then later. Please watch, all the way through. Don’t skip, don’t pause. Please watch, and listen.

That was of course a short piece from the documentary film “Sicko”, from the controversial Michael Moore. While you may disagree with some of the views and politics of both Mr. Moore and Tony Benn, what we cannot ignore is how quickly things have changed since that film was made. Back then in 2007, our NHS was the envy of countries around the globe for it’s high standards of healthcare and it’s clear ‘access to all’ policy, while in America the best healthcare was reserved for those with the fattest wallets (and, if you believe Mr. Moore, even then it wasn’t as good as the UK). So here we are, eight years down the line, and America’s President Obama is spear-heading his own “free healthcare for all” with Obama-care, while in the UK we’re doing the opposite. We’re selling off our publically funded healthcare system a piece at a time. And what’s worse, the mainstream media seem to not want to talk about it.

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Of course, I’m writing this on the back of Jeremy Hunt’s latest dig at medical professionals – belittling the work of hospital consultants and implying that they are “lazy” and don’t work at weekends and nights. Mr. Hunt is saying this to stop the NHS staff from being paid for working unsociable hours and effectively creating a pay-cut. This is when these highly trained individuals have not received a pay rise for the last five years, and MP’s have just accepted a 10% pay rise. Oh, and they get the summer off. The backlash to this outright contempt has been phenomenal, at least in the medical world and in the circles of friends and family of those people. The hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy made a point of showing the Health Secretary just how out of touch he really is from the profession he’s employed to govern. During his speech he never once invited the NHS to sit with him and work out a plan to help shape a better health service. Instead he told them that this is how it will be done, and if you don’t like it you will be punished. This highlights how little respect he has for all the medical staff, and the unwavering crusade to do away with free health care in return for lots of cash .

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Several petitions have been launched against Mr. Hunt, one even through the government’s own e-petition website. At last count they had over 190,000 signatures demanding a vote of No Confidence in the Health Secretary. Now that’s a pretty big number, so why aren’t the mainstream media paying more attention to this? Why is the medical profession being ignored (except by certain right wing newspapers who seem hell bent on attacking doctors and nurses and, oh yeah, have close ties with the Conservative party)? I’ve been keeping an eye on these mainstream media to see if there is any hint of them covering the story, but have yet to see any direct or indirect reference to the petitions on the TV or radio, and you have to know exactly what to look for on the internet. This worries me, a lot.

If only Graham Norton's idea to help people appreciate the BBC could be applied to the NHS.

If only Graham Norton’s idea to help people appreciate the BBC could be applied to the NHS.

The BBC is one of those companies. It is also, like the NHS, another one of the country’s fine public services, facing drastic cuts ahead of the new Royal Charter. Is that one of the reasons why they are distancing themselves? One of the BBC’s most high profile (and no denying, highly paid) talents, Graham Norton, had an interesting idea to make people appreciate the BBC more: “[..]switch off the BBC for two months” he said in a recent interview in the Daily Telegraph “and everyone would s*** themselves.” It makes sense, following that old adage of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. That strategy could work for a broadcaster. For a health service, a life-line, it’s impractical and immoral. The doctors/nurses/paramedics would never do that, because they care. They care about their patients. This is their Achilles heel, their weakness. The government know this, and like some kind of sadomasochistic super-villain, they exploit it for their own gain.

The only mainstream media outlet that has dealt directly with the petition at this is the Channel 4 show, “The Last Leg” (broadcast live on Friday 24th July 2015). Comedian and host Adam Hills went on one of his trademark rants targeting Mr. Hunt (as well as Michael Gove and his wife) saying that they are “badmouthing some of the hardest working, best qualified people in Britain, who are also woefully under-paid”. What he said in that short segment put succinctly in to words exactly how people in the NHS are feeling without relying on defending themselves against distorted reports and twisted figures. At this point I would usually show you a link to such a clip, and yet despite the usual practise of Channel 4 to upload Mr. Hills trademark rants for posterity, this one has, as yet, not officially appeared (although to their credit they have uploaded the hilarious clip of Mr. Hunt being followed around a car park by a guy playing a Sousaphone!). You have to wonder if the Government has placed some kind of restraining order on this material being made more public. The petition itself continues to grow with as many people as possible thankfully shouting about it through social media. As I sit here writing this, the petition is over 190,000 signatures. It needed 100,000 to ensure that Parliament will consider it for debate. The Government has responded to the petition (just scroll down the petition webpage to see it), but with nothing new – just hiding behind those distorted reports and twisted figures again. They’re trying to get out of their obligation to discuss this, and still the mainstream media say nothing. Interestingly another petition on the same website calling for the total legalisation of cannabis in the UK has 125,000+ signatures and is plastered all over the Guardian’s website, and doubtless others media outlets. I’m not saying this debate isn’t important, it just seems ridiculously selective. Surely the job of the mainstream media is to report on subjects and stories that are in the public interest. I can think of nothing that is more in the public interest of this country than the future of its National Health Service

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I refuse to even think that we as a country want to live in a society where the best health care is only available to those with the money. We’re not those people. Nick Knowles proves that! The problem that we have is that we elected a Government in to power who got in on the ticket of fear, and their closest opposition had no clear message on how they would handle things any differently. We put these people in power, but that does not give them the right to lord that power over us. We gave these people their jobs, they work for us, and somewhere along the line we seem to have lost sight of that. So before I sign off I want to point you in the direction of some other interesting articles that will at the very least make you think we are being played.

Remember the recent Fox Hunting debate? The Tories wanted to repeal the ban, the SNP thought they’d flex their newly pumped up political muscles and say “hell no!”? While all that was going on the Government quietly decided to launch an enquiry in to whether the NHS should be paid for through charges and insurance rather than tax. This was not reported in the mainstream media.

The UK’s leading private health care business Care UK has recently been exposed for a lack of care towards its patients, yet still manages to net an impressive multi-million pound profit. This is the sign of what Mr. Hunt is running towards – profit for the sacrifice of care. This was not reported in the mainstream media.

Jeremy Hunt has recently, and quietly shelved a key Tory promise to cap care costs for the elderly. This U-turn has apparently cost the tax payer £100m and is a prime example of the Conservative government not sticking to it’s election promises. This was reported in the Guardian newspaper.

There will doubtless be more loosely relevant stories in the coming days, especially if, as you see in that last article, people within Jeremy Hunts own party are getting annoyed with hm. Still, we must keep shouting. Please spread the news about what’s going on here. Sign the petition, share it. If you’re not sure what’s going on, ask people in the know. Read all the Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, not from the media, but from those who have been fighting to keep your health service safe; the doctors, the nurses, the ones who are on the front line of this ongoing immoral battle. Jeremy Hunt has, with the help of certain right-wing newspapers, convinced an entire generation that doctors and nurses don’t work hard enough, and that they are paid too much. As such respect for doctors is at an all time low. As an example GP’s are viewed as autonomous drug despensers whose (minimum)10 years of training and experience can be usurped by a quick search on Google. Wife O’ Mine is a GP. She returned home from work yesterday afternoon (oh yes, a Saturday!) having seen 76 patients (with one other GP) and spent the entire time apologising. Saying sorry to patients who could not get an appointment to talk about their high temperature of 37 degrees (normal body temperature!). Or saying sorry to a 15 year old boy for “only working 9-5 last week” forcing him to change his weekend plans with his mates. Which is interesting as that was the same day my wife left home at 7am and didn’t get back until 9 that night absolutely exhausted, having had not one break. (She told me she tipped her morning coffee down the sink, at 6pm!). Maybe I should ask where she was while I was with our two young children! She didn’t complain, she never does. Doctors don’t complain, not about doing their job. It’s what they signed up for. They just don’t appreciate being dismissed as overpaid layabouts. Surely government ministers at least can appreciate that?

Perhaps instead of going to the wrong place to get treatment on a bad foot, Michael Gove should talk to his old chums in his previous place of work about educating people how the NHS actually works, like where you should really go for a suspected broken foot. Hint: minor injuries units don’t have 24 hour x-rays, Accident and Emergency do!

Perhaps instead of going to A&E with his kids because he couldn’t get a GP appointment, Jeremy Hunt should have remembered that he runs the Health department and should therefore know that he could have gone to a 24 hour walk-in centre, which were created specifically to relieve non-emergency pressure on already overstretched A&E wards and staff.

Or they could have both gone to their private health care chums. Surely they could afford that, especially with that extra 10%. Wonder if they get mates rates?

Now is the time to back our NHS. Show support for these heroes, because that’s what they are – heroes. If we don’t stand up now, against our government – the self serving supervillains, pretty soon we won’t be able to walk in to an A&E department without our credit card.