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Nobody should die of laughter – minister moots humour ban

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Nobody should die of laughter – minister moots humour ban

The government is considering a week-long ban on jokes during the NHS’s seventieth birthday celebrations. The move comes amid fears that humourists are planning to disrupt the national celebration in the first week of July.

Jeremy Hunt warned that “some people are not taking hashtag NHS70 seriously enough” and that there was a “very real risk that laughter could undermine the hard work and dedication of our dedicated and hard-working teams delivering balloons, streamers, cardboard hats and other vital frontline birthday services, particularly at a time when people are dying on hospital trolleys or waiting for operations.”

Mr Hunt said that while it was unlikely that anyone would deliberately target NHS70, the NHS could be damaged by inadvertent humour on social media and elsewhere.

“Hashtag NHS70 is an opportunity for everyone to get together, have a piece of cake and remember the NHS as it was in years gone by – a decent, adequately funded health service loved by all. This is not the time to dwell on its rapid decline into doddering ill-health, multiple life-threatening conditions and dementia,“ Mr Hunt said.

The health secretary said he was also keen to avoid “tasteless comparisons" between the state of the NHS and what some have called the trivial distraction of a dull kids’ party organised by a well-meaning but unimaginative aunt. 

Mr Hunt denied that there was a contradiction between banning humour and having a good time. “I myself make jokes that nobody finds remotely funny,” he said. “It’s a question of degree and clear lines of demarcation.”

NHS England is drawing up guidelines for staff and patients on how to have a good time during NHS70 without straying into mickey-taking or ridicule. Draft guidance entitled “With Us Not at Us: Staying safe while creating amusing scenarios in NHS70” explains the difference between positive and negative laughter and how to have fun without being inappropriately funny.

NHS has announced that ten areas are to be designated “seriousness exemplars” responsible for minimising unwarranted levity in the run-up to July and enforcing new restrictions on irony, parody, satire and sarcasm.

They will be supported by “positivity ambassadors”, experts in the art of taking themselves seriously, who will be deployed by NHS Horizons and the Fab Academy to train local teams in how to spot unhelpful laughter and how to maintain a straight face in ludicrous situations.  

Ministers who favour the establishment of a permanent NHS-wide ban on humour under a so-called "serious regime" will be watching with interest to see what happens in the next few weeks.

Former editor: Julian Patterson (RIP)


Anonymous says:
Jun 08, 2018 10:50 AM

As a loyal employee of the NHS, I'm abiding by the guidance and not laughing at all......

Anonymous says:
Jun 08, 2018 11:14 AM

When will the guidelines be available

Anonymous says:
Jun 08, 2018 03:28 PM

guidelines available July 8th

Anonymous says:
Jun 08, 2018 03:34 PM

litotes excluded from the ban... not entirely unexpected