Health secretary Steve Barclay probably wished he hadn’t turned his social media on on Sunday 3 September. An ill-conceived post on X (formerly Twitter) ended up with people labelling him “useless“, an “odious piece of shite“, and a “robotic penguin” (or possibly a “minless plastic automaton”, hard to tell). This was all over the NHS junior doctors’ and consultants’ strikes, organised by the British Medical Association (BMA).
The BMA: everybody out
As the Canary previously reported, the BMA recently announced that junior doctors and consultants in England will go on strike together. It will be the first time in the history of the NHS this has happened:
Junior doctors have already staged several days of strike action in recent months, and will walk out again in September. The BMA stated that they’ll strike on September 20-22, with one day coinciding with a strike by consultants. Then, junior doctors and consultants will also strike at the same time on October 2-4.
- Junior doctors’ pay has fallen by 26% in real terms since 2008.
- Consultants’ pay has also collapsed – falling by 35% in real terms since 2008.
So, the BMA is calling for pay restoration for junior doctors, in line with inflation since 2008/09. For consultants, it says it wants a:
credible offer that puts an end to these pay cuts and a commits to reforming the pay review body process so that it can be truly independent in reviewing consultant pay and begin addressing these historic losses.
Intransigence, lies, and bad social media
Of course, the Tory government is unwilling to do any of these things. It’s offered both junior doctors and consultants a 6% pay rise, plus a one-off payment of £1,250 for the former. Moreover, Tory ministers have shown intransigence, at best – and at worst, have lied. Barclay was guilty of the latter on the subject of consultants’ pensions.
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Now, the health secretary has commented for right-wing shitrag the Express – whining about the BMA “playing politics” and labelling the strike action as “callous”. Clearly, Barclay (or some wet-behind-the-ears comms intern) thought that sharing the article on social media would provide some much-needed positive PR for the health secretary and the government. Talk about a miscalculation:
I urge the BMA to end its strikes immediately.
They only harm patients and put immense pressure on other NHS colleagues who must cover extra work, on top of their own.
— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) September 3, 2023
Barclay’s post provoked a near-unanimously furious backlash from people on X. One doctor thought the health secretary was the one playing politics by stalling on negotiating with the BMA:
Why not offer doctors in England the same deal that Scottish doctors accepted
You haven’t talked to the doctors since May
You’re not serious about ending strikes or cutting waiting lists – just running down the clock to the next election https://t.co/8ly2OiO7yH
— Dr Asif Qasim 💙 (@DrAsifQasim) September 3, 2023
That was one of the more polite posts. Other people had some choice words for Barclay – noting his “shite brand of gaslighting”, among other characteristics:
Goodness. He does not take a day off from his shite brand of gaslighting. Do your job, you lazy cunt. Stop harming patients by failing to pay Doctors what they deserve. Stop pissing about, you're making safe staffing & retention levels WORSE. Utterly useless @SteveBarclay #SOSNHS https://t.co/7DkPIBNWgV
— Chirpy Chet (@ChirpyChet) September 4, 2023
Another doctor thought the health secretary had the air of a “robotic penguin” about him – in reference to Barclay’s recent encounter with one:
A mindless plastic automaton & a robotic penguin.
98% of junior doctors have just voted for industrial action because of annualised pay cuts & government intransigence.
These strikes are your choice @RishiSunak.
— 🇺🇦 Dr Kevin O'Kane 🇺🇦 (@DrOKaneAgain) September 3, 2023
Overall, and one consultant summed the situation up nicely:
Harm patients? Look who’s talking! Choose your metric, the NHS has got worse on your watch.
Cover extra work? Doctors and Consultants are together on this.
Fair ? Below inflation, still a pay cut. Nothing to address pay erosion.
Independent ? 🤦♂️ come on no one’s buying that https://t.co/iPdElHvzO7
— Mike Greenhalgh (@MikeSGreenhalgh) September 3, 2023
Barclay: running out of options
Of course, posting shit on social media and talking to the Express are the only weapons Barclay has left in his armoury. The splurge guns from Bugsy Malone would be more effective – and ditto for a bunch of kids in costumes when it comes to dealing with the NHS, compared to our health secretary.
Barclay’s desperation is obvious – as is his very-thinly veiled propaganda, trying to turn the public against NHS workers. However, the health secretary is running out of options. With a union that clearly won’t back down, and public support for junior doctors still in the majority (but admittedly with consultants lagging behind), Barclay is on the edge – as his desperate social media posting shows.
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