Big Society NHS shows Lansley cannot ignore opposition

Published on Friday, 10 June 2011 09:12
Posted by Scott Buckler

An innovative crowd-sourcing and data visualisation effort by a group, “The Big Society NHS”, illustrates overwhelming opposition to Andrew Lansley’s plans to reorganise the NHS, and gives a clue to how uncomfortable the recent “Listening exercise” must have been for the government (June 10th)

The grassroots group, which is made up of frontline NHS clinicians, public health doctors, students and members of the public, was set up because members’ concerns were ignored by the hasty initial public consultation on the radical NHS reforms. The recent Department of Health’s ‘Listening exercise’ and legislative pause coincided with memos that signalled the onward march of this reoganisation, so Big Society NHS set up their own ‘crowd-sourced’ listening exercise, to ensure that personal and professional perspectives were heard.

In response to the site, Dr Tom Yates, a junior doctor working in Oxford said, "These beautiful graphics seriously challenge the legitimacy of the 'listening' exercise. If Lansley had been listening, he'd have heard - there's very little enthusiasm for his proposals."

The site, which was launched a fortnight ago, allows people surfing the web to add themselves, or to add others such as MPs, academics, clinicians, or groups of people represented by petitions or unions alongside a link to the source of their conclusions. They are asked simply, “Do you support the NHS reforms as currently proposed?”. The web page then illustrates these combined views in an explosive Flash visualisation, in which the individuals or groups are attracted to their poles after starting in the centre. This approach has allowed the group to share research, and to present this wealth of information in a way that is clear for all to see.

The visualisation is uncomfortable surfing for David Cameron and Andrew Lansley.  It shows overwhelming opposition to the Coalition’s proposals. Opposition comes from the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, Unite, Unison, and the web-based pressure group 38 degrees, each represented by a circle proportional to their representation. The Government will also struggle to ignore the many respected clinicians, academics, charities and individuals shown on the map.  The contrast with the ‘For’ side is stark: The coalition health ministers are joined by 43 GPs who are heading up the new ‘GP consortia’, the head of Bupa, and only a few others.

Big Society NHS member Dr Sunil Bhopal said, "It's amazing to think about how few people actually support the government's NHS reform plans. They say they're listening - I only hope they pay attention to what gets said."

In addition to showing the scale of the opposition to the current plans, ‘The Big Society NHS’ is also crowd-sourcing ideas for how the NHS can be improved, and is collating these to pass on to the government. In the mean time, this innovate website shows how important it is that the government’s ‘listening exercise’ actually hears the chorus of dissent.

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Source: Sunil Bhopal

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