NHS Climbdown and the Court of Public Opinion


THis is a welcome front page, don’t get me wrong. But I have a question. Why is the court of public opinion, as deciphered by media, the only functioning check and balance in a mature democracy? The confidentiality of patient data is the concern of many bodies, patient confidentiality is at the heart of just about every branch of our medical profession. We have clinical regulators, we are supposed to be a mature democracy with mature institutions.

A few months ago, there were bedroom tax eviction notices being put out with implied child protection threats. Again, something which should have concerned many bodies and which should not be a feature of our democracy at all. The way to deal with this was simple, make well placed noise on twitter, make sure several key journalists were aware and orchestrate a noise sufficient that the housing authorities concerned would back down. Which they did. In a matter of days. The court of public opinion, hooray. Great that people have that power now, and great for those of us who know how to create a ripple in the media when required. A new power dynamic that exists.

Except it isn’t great. Because that is not how democracy or a political economy is supposed to work. We are supposed to have institutions and organisations and bodies who act as checks and balances. Governing is supposed to be like holding the reins of many horses and steering them together. But it isn’t now. It’s who can make a noise sufficient to create a superficial climbdown that doesn’t affect the overall trajectory of ultimately damaging policy subject to political consensus. The really frightening thing is that that is the only accountability we have from govt. The ability to make a bit of noise to shame or scare them. Like waving your arms to scare pigeons.

A thought in the dying days of this political economy.

NB Point raised after publication. GP unwillingness may have contributed to the climbdown. And I hope so. But post still stands.


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