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President Trump is a wake up call – we need to bring back healthy debate

It’s time to rewind and allow debate. I think it is completely stifled and this is why the polls have been wrong in the last three important votes, culminating in President Trump. 

Not only is this political shyness allowing the slow destruction of the NHS

We are sliding into an abyss of non-debate. And this is evident in and out of politics, including medicine. Cast your mind back to Professor Tim Hunt, Noble Laureate, who was forced to stand down. To lose his career in a prestigious London teaching hospital after suggesting single sex labs were the way forward because women fall in love with their colleagues and cry when criticised. It took all of two days for this esteemed colleague who had dedicated his life to his passion for research to stand down and disappear into the ether.

But what if there was something in his comment, what if there was nothing: we will never know. Political correctness allowed him to be harangued, shouted at and pilloried out of his job. Not once did he get an opportunity to explain his comments, for the varying viewpoints to debate and engage, so who wins? PC wins, but who is that?

Of course I am not saying that he was right but I am wondering if there were points from both sides that had value and a decent debate may have discovered this and allowed some new ground to be explored that benefitted everyone. We will never know. Students and colleagues who would have benefitted from the experience and guidance of Sir Tim lost too. It seems to me that everyone loses.

Surely this is how we got a Tory Government who went on to continue their destruction of the NHS, its workforce and juniors in the process. It’s how we got Brexit and just look at the backlash after that when people were accused of being racist, uneducated, stupid, demonstrating my point.

And now we have President Trump. The man who might put women in prison for having a termination, who will take away healthcare from millions of Americans without blinking and everyone is in shock asking how it happened. Well having recently returned from the US where I worked on the Clinton campaign I can tell you it’s the same. Those ‘I am undecided’ voters are just ‘too scared to admit’ Trump voters and now they have their wish, whatever that was.

Not only is this political shyness affecting medicine and allowing the slow destruction of the NHS that we all love, but it affects us as workers within it. Maybe I am alone, I doubt it, but who will admit it? There are lots of things going on in our lives as GPs every day that we think are wrong or need to change, and often the thought of raising it and being greeted by PC scorn is enough to ensure we don’t. For example, suggesting that there is a cohort of patients (how big is actually the unknown) who could work but just don’t want to, and get repeated Med3s from GPs too worn down to say no and face a complaint. That always meets a PC backlash. There are many more, we know there are.

So please, can we treat this latest ‘shock’ from across the pond as the wake up call to bring back healthy debate? The only way to change views is to create an environment where everybody feels engaged and able to speak without derision and bullying. Surely we have all learnt this from GP training and those wonderful Wednesday afternoons hugging each other. We need all views to count, even when they are outrageously politically incorrect if we are to engage and change them. Let’s all be honest, let’s rewind and let’s stop scratching our heads over wrong polls. This is the answer. 

Dr Renee Hoenderkamp is a first-year qualified GP in north London. You can follow her on Twitter @DrHoenderkamp