I have some bad news and some good news – PR Week Post #12

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OK, bad news first.  Earlier today, the Department of Health moved into full crisis mode and finally acknowledging that swine flu was spreading too quickly to contain. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming!  Needless to say, at the same time, the media sprang into a level of action not seen since the crisis began with nearly 800 outlets carrying the story within a few hours of the statement.  Since talking about the outbreak in my very first blog (I think there were about 11 cases back then) there have been new stories on what seems like an hourly basis each carrying a new total.  As it now stands at over 3,700.

Now for the good (and less publicised) news. Congratulations must be extended to the vaccine manufacturers who have simply worked miracles. I was fortunate enough to meet Andrew Witty (CEO of GlaxoSmithKline) last Friday who said that the manufacturing process has been accelerated to such an extent as to guarantee vaccine availability to the entire population.  This acceleration process usually takes months and they achieved it in two weeks.  It is astonishing what the pharmaceutical industry can achieve when everyone is on their side.

Twittering for Health – PR Week Post #11

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At least twice a week, someone asks me if I am a regular Twitter user because they have seen I have an account.  Despite being followed by a grand total of three people (who are sadly gaining very little from my account at present), I have to say I am not.

Until this morning however I felt quite bad about this and was actually considering starting to act like a ‘Twit’ in earnest.  That was before I read the results of OnePoll’s survey which said that Twitter was Britain’s least trustworthy site. Although it didn’t come as much of a surprise, given the number of people twittering about health, this is slightly worrying.  It remind me about the time when the internet started all over again.  Regulation, de-regulation, freedom of speech?  I agree and disagree in equal measure.

I would be interested to know whether admission applications for City University London’s degree in twitter (http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/913674/degree-Twitter-offered-City-University-London/) drop off as a result.

Originally posted to PR Week on June 17, 2009

Freedom of information act is truly in vogue – PR Week Post #10

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Last Friday afternoon, I read that the NHS spent more than £350 million on external management consultants in the last financial year, with only 12% being directly attributed to improving patient care.  Commenting on the fact that the remaining £273 million was unrelated to direct patient care, the RCN general secretary, Peter Carter, said: “These figures are utterly shocking when you consider the difference that this money could have made to patients.”

I completely agree. This is yet another example of where money is simply frittered away in an attempt to repair a clearly dysfunctional set-up.  Without shutting the NHS down and rebuilding it from the ground up, I am not sure this will ever happen. Bureaucracy will always stand in the way of positive reorganisation.

As the Health Select Committee requested this information via the Freedom of Information Act, I wonder if they have any plans to scrutinise the salaries and benefits paid out to trust boards each year?

From my recent experiences, I doubt whether this expenditure is having a completely positive effect on patient outcomes either.

Originally posted to PR Week on June 8, 2009

Johnson is the new home secretary – PR Week Post #9

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Well, the ‘all change’ bell has finally rung in the cabinet room. A few minutes ago, we said goodbye to Alan Johnson (health secretary since June 2007) and now wait to see who will succeed him.

Whoever it may be, they are probably going to have a short cabinet term ahead of them but at least they will get the chance to put the finishing touches on the health policies in next year’s election manifesto.

If you have any thoughts as to who should succeed Alan Johnson, let us know before the announcement…

Originally posted to PR Week on June 5, 2009