Doctors have branded a decision to hold a fundraising event for Jeremy Hunt in secret as ‘dishonest’ and ‘deceitful’.
The government’s health secretary had been due to attend a drinks and canapes evening at the Lysses House Hotel, Fareham, with Tory activists on Friday until the event’s open invitation began to circulate on social media.
Tickets were bought by some junior doctors who say Mr Hunt has refused to speak to them directly, following strikes over the new contracts – which Mr Hunt announced he would impose anyway.
Non Conservative Party members were told the event had been cancelled, when in fact it had just been moved to another location, thought to have been Fareham College. Fareham Conservative Association justified the switch by saying it was for security reasons.
Commenting on Facebook, Dr Kathryn Carey-Jones said: ‘I could have accepted being told I’m not allowed to attend given recent events, but I was lied to, to keep me away.
‘This is dishonesty at its best and would not be accepted from a doctor to a politician.
‘If this is the way the local Conservatives treat their doctors what can we expect from the rest?’
Another, who wished to stay anonymous, said: ‘To say we’re cross is an understatement’.
Dr Emma Nash, a GP, said a friend she was going with, who is a party member, was refused access to the secret venue until they had convinced organisers there were no doctors with her.
She said: ‘I feel really disappointed. There is a lack of respect for me, as a professional, to be told as a medic I’m not allowed to go somewhere where my own Secretary of State is going to be.
‘If they had said “no doctors” then fine. But to tell us it was cancelled and go and have it at Fareham College is deceitful.
‘How are we supposed to have any kind of faith in somebody who deliberately manipulates their way out of seeing us?’
Earlier on Friday a visit by Mr Hunt to Fareham Community Hospital was brought forward by an hour to avoid protesters. But it meant members of the public who wanted to talk to Mr Hunt about diabetes care missed him.
Laura Cleverly, 29, from Southsea, was one of them.
She said: ‘We were going to meet Jeremy Hunt to discuss local diabetes care and the improvements that can be made to quality of lives locally.
‘For us it was an opportunity not to be missed. We didn’t intend to bring up the junior doctors’ contracts.
‘We have been really let down by Jeremy Hunt.
‘We were not given any warning he was leaving. There was no apology. It feels like he has been very disrespectful.
‘He is supposed to be in charge of the NHS. He did not want to attend because of the backlash over junior doctors’ contracts but that is his fault. He must face the public.
‘He is supposed to care about patient safety but that is not how it appears. I’m very disappointed.’
Regarding the drinks reception, Thomas Fyfe, chairman of Fareham Conservative Association, would not be drawn on why only Conservative Party members were told about the new location.
Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, was not involved in the event but said he felt it would have been cancelled for the safety of participants.
In a statement Mr Fyfe said: ‘Because of the very real threat of disturbance from groups circulating details of our planned reception with Jeremy Hunt, the advertised event was cancelled on security grounds.
‘A smaller private event for party members to meet Mr Hunt was held instead at another location. We regret the inconvenience caused to those who had bought tickets and were unable to attend, all of whom will be offered a full refund’.