Please ignore Jeremy Hunt

I have try to separate out my life as a mummy and my life as a doctor. Just because I’m a doctor, doesn’t mean I have all the answers to all the questions people ask me about parenting and their children, and it certainly doesn’t mean I have all the answers about my own child. But for once, I’m going to break this rule. Because its important. And because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t break this rule this time.

Please ignore our current Secretary of State for Health, The Right Honorable Jeremy Hunt, when he tells you to look up your child’s rash on Google – as he thinks this would be faster than going to Accident and Emergency. 

I can only hope he’s saying this out of some misguided attempt to make A+E more efficient for patients who really need to be there. Because if he’s not misguided, and if he’s saying this for any other reason then I cannot comprehend how anyone could be that calculating. And ignorance does not excuse such a dangerous statement – not when its children’s lives that are at stake.

I remember very clearly one of the worst days I have been a doctor. I remember the face of the 8 month old baby who died in A+E despite everything being done right, and despite multiple consultants fighting to save his life. I remember his distraught parents. I remember his distraught family. I remember knowing how life would never be the same for them again, and that they would always blame themselves for the death of this child. I remember how scared every member of the medical team was that day – from Consultants who had worked for the NHS for decades through to nurses who had seen frontline action and trauma in the army. I remember how scared I was. I remember hoping I never had to see a child with that rash again. I remember everyone crying afterwards – both family and the NHS staff. I still cry when I think about this day, some 5 years later

You cannot differentiate this rash from several other similar rashes and this is one condition in which time is of the essence. Consultant dermatologists, paediatricians and infectious disease specialists who have decades of clinical experience cannot differentiate the dangerous rash from the not so dangerous rash by looking at a picture. If they can’t then I definitely can’t, and as a parent you should not be told, asked, expected or advised to try.

If your child has a rash which does not disappear when you run a glass over it please call 999 and get an ambulance to take you to hospital. If you’re near a GP surgery go there (even if you are not registered with them) and explain what’s happening to the staff. If you’re not sure, still call 999. Do not hesitate. Do not wait. This rash moves quickly and kills even quicker. You do not have the time to look at pictures of rashes on the internet.

And do not think you will be wasting anyone’s time. We will see you. We will do everything we can to help you. And we will be scared with you, even if we are trying our best not to show it.

For once, Google does not have the answer. And apparently neither does Jeremy Hunt.

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