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Jeremy Hunt’s nuclear winter

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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has finally decided to use his ‘nuclear option’ on the junior doctors’ dispute and impose a contract.

An unfortunate metaphor for, as any fool knows, as soon as you actually press the nuclear button, you lose.

There isn’t the space to debate the rights and wrongs of both sides here. But what is interesting is the change in temperature, and the frost seems likely to spread to dealings with nurses and midwives. Even Trust chief executives who back the contract have come out strongly against its imposition.

The government seems like it’s working to a 1980s playbook on dealing with hard-left unions, rather than attempting to make the NHS an attractive career to the highly skilled people who should be its lifeblood for the next 35 years. Other options beckon for them: the Scottish and Welsh NHS, Big Pharma; or sunnier climes. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander struck a chord when she called on Mr Hunt to ‘stop behaving like a recruiting agent for Australian hospitals’.

An ex-employee of Mr Hunt from his publishing days told me a story about being in the office on 9/11. As people stood shocked looking at the rolling TV news, Mr Hunt switched it off as it was distracting his sales team from their calls. Does it reveal an extraordinary ability to block out catastrophe, or to calmly focus on the job in hand under pressure? I guess this is when we find out.

Mike Shallcross, acting editor, Independent Nurse

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