England’s ever divisive secretary of state for health and social care has once again come under fire – this time for tweeting about a hospital’s staffing levels.
After a private visit to a hospital in Ipswich, Jeremy Hunt tweeted a picture of the technology the organisation is using to track staff levels.
Really clever use of technology at @IpswichHosp to ensure safe staffing levels are maintained throughout the day. Thanks to staff who came for a constructive discussion on safety. pic.twitter.com/MWNRYYj69n
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) January 18, 2018
Despite his best intentions the tweet clearly showed the serious workforce gaps that are affecting the NHS.
It’s not the first time that the health secretary has put his foot in it. Read on below to find out about some of Hunt’s best (and worst!) blunders in digital health.
Going paperless? Forget about it
Remember when Jeremy Hunt wanted the NHS to be paperless by 2018? Well he doesn’t want you to.
In 2013, Jeremy Hunt stated that he wanted the NHS to be paperless by 2013, a plan which he finally admitted as unrealistic last year.
After a review of the NHS’ IT systems by Robert Watcher, Hunt spoke to the House of Lords about where the organisation was at in terms of going paperless.
Hunt said: “I have made big, bold statements about it. I perhaps rather bravely said I wanted the NHS to be paperless by 2018 in my first few months as Health Secretary, and I am quite relieved that most people seem to have forgotten that I made that promise.”
Points for honesty Mr Hunt but next time don’t make promises you can’t keep.
A little bit rash
When you get sick do you Google your symptoms? Well Mr Hunt thinks you should.
In January 2016, the health secretary spoke about the 111 hotline saying it needed more medics and that staff required better training. Mr Hunt then suggested a ‘clever’ way to help reduce the amount of pressure on doctors and nurses – simply search your symptoms online.
He said: “We may well need more 111 doctors and nurses. But if you’re worried about a rash your child has, an online alternative – where you look at photographs and say ‘my child’s rash looks like this one’ – may be a quicker way of getting to the bottom of whether this is serious or not.”
Now it’s not like Mr Hunt is trying to take away decision making from NHS doctors but if you look at earlier statements made by the health secretary, it appears that he is.
In 2015, Mr Hunt said that hospitals could be made safer by taking away medical decisions away from doctors and allowing computers and protocols to decide on certain aspects of care.
Here at DHA we’re all for digital health but Google isn’t the type of innovative medical technologies we’re looking for. Leave it to the doctors for now.
Like many politicians, Jeremy Hunt has a habit of turning invisible when a serious crisis hits home. For instance, last year when the WannaCry attack affected NHS hospitals around the UK, Jeremy Hunt was nowhere to be seen for three days.
When he finally appeared, he gave a brief statement playing down the incident and then said “everyone” had a responsibility to protect themselves from malware. It’s not like the NHS has been massively underfunded for years and hasn’t got the proper infrastructure to protect itself from malware attacks. No, according to Mr Hunt, all people have to do is ‘back up their data and install anti-virus software’.
In another incident of Mr Hunt’s disappearing act, the health secretary kept quiet for months after finding out about some 708,000 pieces of medical data being misplaced.
Between 2011-2016, private contractor NHS SBS misplaced over half a million pieces of medical information.
An examination of the incident by the National Audit Office found that there were 1,788 cases of potential harm to patients as of 31 May 2017.
After keeping quiet about the incident and referring to it simply as an “issue with mail redirection”, Hunt was finally accused of a cover up by shadow health secretary, Johnathan Ashworth.
Ashworth said: ““This is an absolute scandal. For a company partly owned by the Department of Health and a private company to fail to deliver half a million NHS letters, many of which contain information critical to patient care, is astonishing.