Doctors created a twitter storm this weekend against health minister Jeremy Hunt by using the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy to prove that consultants are already working weekends.
The campaign, created by an anonymous anaesthetic trainee behind the Twitter handle @ImInWorkJeremy, formed overnight in reaction to Hunt’s Friday announcement that he plans to impose 7 day working on consultants.
Described by the BMA as a ‘wholesale attack on doctors’, Hunt’s proposal has been criticised for lacking any concrete plans about what will happen to routine weekday services if consultants are in 7 days and how they will add to care without key support staff at weekends.
#ImInWorkJeremy became the UK’s top-trending Twitter feed and was quickly picked up by the press. By lunchtime, The Independent,The Mirror and Sky News were onto it, closely followed by the BBC and even The Daily Mail.
So what made this campaign a success? Three things made a difference.
First, it was visual. Doctors around the country tweeted photos of themselves at work. Did they look like the public’s image of consultants: affluent, aloof and slightly removed from patients? Was anyone driving a Bentley or drinking sherry in their club?
They were not.
They looked human. They looked normal. Doctors did things real people do like taking selfies and tweeting. And they were still smiling in spite of being at work and being furious with Hunt.
They looked like the people you want looking after you when you get sick.
Secondly, many of them were in scrubs. Scrubs gave them a common identify. There’s no arguing with someone in scrubs. When doctors put scrubs on they mean business. They looked cool.
When your chips are down and you’re on that trolley being painted brown with Betadine, you can’t google what’s wrong with you and tell someone in scrubs what to do.
But here’s the third reason and most important reason. What this campaign was all about. That everyone stood together.
When Hunt said that consultants needed to ‘get real’ about 7 day working, nurses, midwives, ambulance crews, radiographers, GPs and junior doctors, as well as consultants came out to make a point.
There was no mudslinging between GPs and consultants accusing each other of incompetence or work dumping or one group being overpaid. No-one said that the problem was too many female doctors having children or that locums were milking the system or that immigrant doctors were somehow to blame.
No-one blamed salaried GPs or partners or locums or said that trainees were rubbish and didn’t do enough hours these days.
Everyone spoke with one voice.
If doctors were able to do that: to decide as a group what we want, stop blaming each other, stand shoulder to shoulder for fair resources, for better understanding of what 24 hour caring entails, then this battle for our patients and our jobs and to stop denigrating us in the press, could be more easily won.
In the meantime, doctors await Mr Hunt to get back from enjoying his 10% payrise on his extended summer recess to see if anything has changed.