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My Thoughts

    Internet and social media, My Thoughts

    #welovetheNHS – America, the NHS and social media

    In the last two days something special happened on Twitter. Again. Twitter users in their thousands have this time rushed to defend the NHS against American critics of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. The Guardian reported that ‘US critics have accused the service of putting an “Orwellian” financial cap on the value on human life, of allowing elderly people to die untreated and, in one case, for driving a despairing dental patient to mend his teeth with superglue’.

    But literally thousands of people on the social networking site, Twitter, have come to the NHS’s defence. Using the hashtag #welovethenhs, which allows messages on a similar topic to be linked, people have been posting their experiences and amazing messages of support.

    What the Hashtag, a site which tracks trends, counted 20,575 tweets (messages) using the #welovethenhs tag, with 10,909 contributors. And that’s just as of 9:30 today – the numbers are going up. I’ve posted five so you can get an idea, but if you get the chance or need some cheering up, take a look at the rest.

    karmadillo I love the NHS because baby Enso (& possibly me) would not have survived labour without them #welovethenhs
    _garys #welovethenhs When my dad’s heart began to fail we were told he wouldn’t last a week. The NHS gave him an urgent bypass and saved his life.
    benjamincohen: I have to use the NHS every week because of having Multiple Sclerosis. It has its faults but it’s still great #welovethenhs
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs Without the NHS my uncle would have paralysis to his right leg and be in a wheelchair. He now stands and is a paramedic.
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs -may not be perfect, but you can rely on it when you are in need, no matter what your financial status is. We are spoiled!

    Social networking sites, like Twitter, get accused of being a pointless waste of time. But to me this highlights one of the great ways they can be used; they hold people to account, they allow ordinary people to speak their mind and counter lies. The stories people have told in 140 characters about the NHS have been genuine messages of support from regular people. It’s been amazing.

    And yes, I work for the NHS, so I may be biased towards thinking it’s something that should be applauded. But it’s nice to see it regardless!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    My Thoughts

    Swine flu and Question Time

    Two weeks ago Question Time, the BBC2 political debate show, came to Birmingham. I was in the audience (bright pink top, you can’t miss me) and was chosen to ask a question. Sadly it didn’t get asked, but I’ve posted a picture of it and wanted to explain why i felt it needed discussing. My question was ‘given the WHO have upped the swine flu level to pandemic, do the panel feel the general public have been properly prepared?’

    I was disappointed my question didn’t get asked, especially as it was the lead story on the BBC news at 10pm – Question Time is filmed around 8pm and shown after the News. But also because the huge rise in swine flu cases means the public is worried but don’t seem to know what they should do if they think they’ve caught it.

    The hospital I work at had a 25% increase in visitors to A+E with flu-like symptoms last week. And I spent the best part of the week uploading files, action cards and FAQs to an intranet site and used the word algorithm more times than an episode of Numbers. Safe to say the general public, or perhaps just those of Birmingham, did not get the message as to what to do if you think you have swine flu.

    So here’s what to do if you develop flu-like symptoms; DO NOT GO TO A+E. You potentially have a contageous disease – stay at home and try not to infect anyone else. This also means you should avoid GP surgeries or anywhere there are large numbers of people. Do what you’d normally do with flu – stay home, rest, keep well hydrated. Call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or check the NHS website Phone your GP if it puts your mind at ease. Listen to them. They have the most up to date news.

    Do not do what one woman I overheard doing and go into a crowded area and whinge that a doctor won’t see your ill child because he has flu-like symptoms.

    My Thoughts

    Fighting fascism with fascism?

    Yesterday evening I happened across an anti-BNP protest in Birmingham city centre. I’m not entirely sure why they felt the need to protest then – as far as I know there was nothing specifically BNP happening in Brum yesterday. I suspect it was to echo the protest in London where BNP leader Nick Griffin was holding a press conference.  Nevertheless given the lack of elected BNP officials in B’ham over say, Stoke, it seemed like an odd choice.

    What seemed like an even odder choice was their method of protest.  They chanted, the abused and generally they professed their hatred through intimidating and aggressive methods without really educating anyone on why the BNP are racist/fascist/homophobic/sexist/generally reprehensible humans. Sure they said it, but they never once gave examples. They could’ve pointed to comments from prominent BNP supporters that women should enjoy rapelinks to the National Front or well-publicised Holocaust denial.  For the entire time I was observing I didn’t once hear them tell people why the BNP are bad, only that they are.  And the protest in London was worse at echoing the uninformative sentiment.

    Anti-BNP protest in Birmingham on 9/6/09

    Anti-BNP protest in Birmingham on 9/6/09

    But what’s the point?  Why should ordinary people passing through the city centre believe protesters without evidence?  And why should they believe people who act in a manner that echoes one they are fighting against?

    Surely the way to argue against a group who you believe will erode democracy, remove free speech and employ violence and interrogation is to not to use their methods as a template to get your message across.  Yes, what they propose is nothing short of terrifying, but hounding them out, not giving them a chance to speak and refusing to nobly argue your point and show your point of view is correct can only be viewed as undemocratic and equally oppressive.

    The way to get people round to your thinking cannot be to deny the opposing side a voice, that can only serve to drive them underground and make their message more dangerous. And even if you did succeed in stamping out the opposing view through intimidating, what kind of victory is that?

    Internet and social media, My Thoughts

    Old versus New – NHS, social media and swine flu

    It’s been well reported that the hospital I work at has been preparing for things just in case there should be an outbreak of swine flu. And between delivering leaflets to wards to let staff know just how this would pan out and researching online communications, I’ve seem how both things work – and don’t.

    There’s always been the issue of whether staff on the ground get access to the computers to read the things we’ve put out online, so we do both to make sure – put it online and provide it in paper form. Something that even with all the advances in social technology will not alter any time soon. Frontline staff don’t sit in front of a computer all day like those of us office based and may not always be able to read the things online as soon as we put it on. I know when I worked on the frontline in another job I would scan through emails once a day if I was lucky.  Other people did it once a week and a select few monthly.  Social media is great for getting things out, but not if the people can’t get to it regularly.

    Then, on the other hand, until the information about the Redditch woman infected with swine flu was confirmed we had numerous calls from journalists trying to find out if the Prime Minister’s announcement of someone infected in Birmingham was at our hospital (She wasn’t. Redditch isn’t even in Birmingham.  Most sites have now updated to show this). We fielded calls from all sorts of news outlets all asking the same question and we had the same answer for them. This information could’ve been released once on social media sites like a Trust blog (and/or Twitter) and prevented having to repeat the same thing. We could always alter the information as and when it changed – like we’ve been able to do with linking to the up to date Health Protect Agency’s algorithm when the World Health Organisation upped the pandemic level.

    I think it’s pretty easy to see that both methods have their strengths and weaknesses. Online media allows rapid, regularly updated information to be disseminated to a large number of people, but only if they have access to it and you don’t always know who has read it (I know there are trackers, but still). Paper-based and/or one face-to-face conversation means you know people get the information but it’s stagnant and updating it can be time consuming. This is not exactly a groundbreaking analysis, – I know that. But seeing this in the space of two days has been really quite fascinating.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*