Health: it’s a serious business

Yesterday’s front-page splash in The Mail (Bonuses for doctors: How GPs are earning up to £380,000 a year) generated quite a bit of interest in the wider press; spreading as far as (note the use of shock quotes)  The Telegraph, the Evening Standard and The Sun.

It also generated quite a bit of user feedback in the Mail’s own pages – here is the most popular user-response on the story from yesterday: 

Feedback on Bonuses for doctors: How GPs are earning up to £380,000 a year

Now, leaving aside a couple of factors, namely:

  • The emphasis on one (incomplete) source of data, in the form of the FOI request which generated this information, and;
  • The fact that the journalists in question could quite easily have obtained official figures for comparison with this data via the NHS Information Centre (but chose not to publish) and;
  • The fact that both the TaxPayers’ Alliance and The Patients Association got right of reply on this story, while only the BMA were given the chance to represent the other side of the argument…

…the sharp contrast in opinion between the press and user-feedback is worthy of note.  Much of the critical feedack on the Mail story seems to be of the special-interest variety – many critics claim to be doctors.  But they put forward persuasive arguments against a story that has quite a few holes.

The Pulse rightly notes that just because the data is questionable, that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t matter:

…the figures may be inflated, but do they nonetheless raise some real questions. It might be due to rural payments, dispensing income or another, unspecified reason. But the GP in Norfolk who, even after expenses of all kinds are deducted, takes home £310,000 a year is doing very well for his or her self indeed.

The media must ask awkward questions of public services, and we need a healthy debate as to what’s right and wrong – what is working and what is not.

So when it comes to ensuring this debate is played out online, it would make sense for those taking part – whether in the press, or in medicine, to be seen to be taking their roles seriously –  after all, health is an important matter.

So with this in mind, ask yourself – is this a responsible thing for the Mail’s ‘Health reporter’ Daniel Martin to be broadcasting to the world:

Daniel_Martin_tweet

Of course the Mail’s contempt for Twitter (and those who use it) is legendary, but perhaps Mr Dacre might do well to publish a 20-page or longer guide to the social network phenomenon for Mail employees.

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