Getting beneath the Health Service?

Nearly a week later and triple whammy Wednesday is looking more like a triple whammy wind up than political crisis. In any case a three point attack seems to have dissipated much potential damage. Even Charles Clarke (whose troubles seems the most grounded in political reality) can claim the excuse of having the largest and most unwieldy ministerial brief, with 70,000 employees and £13 billion budget. Meanwhile Patricia Hewitt even has Polly Toynbee in her corner over the need for rigorous reform of the NHS, and who was withering in her judgement that the once dignified RCN, is now easily outshone by Unison in terms of its political savvy.Part of the problem is a failure to get to grips with the real on-the-ground situation, particularly in health – but the same applies in a range of policy areas, not least in education. In Northern Ireland one of the most controversial decisions made in the duration of the NI Executive was the one to close the Tyrone Hospital, in favour of investing in the Erne Hospital. Yet there was little discussion in the public domain as to hows, whys and wherefores of that decision. It was more a case of hit the red button and withdraw (in this case, from government).

One interesting online experiment, which might help get some some kind of grip on at least how the users feel about the health service delivery is Patient Opinion. It’s a kind of ‘rate my teacher’ site which collects feedback and categorises it by area, speciality and perspective. Sadly it doesn’t register Northern Ireland, but this is the kind of result one Dorset hospital gets. It’s clearly early days, but something with this kind of gamesy approach is likely to give users a bottom up handle on what’s happening with their local services.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty