Monthly Archives: October 2015

“Major Earthquake: six dead”

The emphasis on a rolling news agenda, on 24/7 coverage, is producing some silly journalism such as the above headline this week broadcast on a respected news website.

Ah, but we are told, journalism is different now. It’s not like the old days of newspaper deadlines only once or twice a day. Well, up to a point. Remember, in the old days there was a Stop Press column for breaking news. But the journalism back then would say, “Major Earthquake in x. Many feared dead.”

And this is the point. In the early stages we need information and intelligence, not silly numbers. You can almost imagine the scene, the frantic phone call from duty editors in London to the nearest office of a news organisation – “Look out the window! How many are dead? A bus has just crashed outside? Great! Six dead, must be! Get me pictures! Shaking buildings, falling bridges! (hangs up)”.

I’d like to think we can do better than this next time. In the early stages after such a disaster we need intelligence. You would want to hear from a competent seismologist – what kind of area is it? Usually remote, but where are the populations? Then, what is the local health infrastructure like? What might be the likely physical aftermath in that region – flooding, landslips, aftershocks, crop losses, what are the night-time temperatures outdoors for the next month?

Later that day, maybe something on the local politics. What level of resources do the authorities have, and what competences do they have in deploying those resources effectively? Are humanitarian organisations in the area, and frankly what are their competences too?

Journalism, please, not instant daft numbers.

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For medical bureaucrats, pictures really are worth 1,000 words

Many non-urgent medical decisions these days are made by budget holders. To some extent these people are doctors such as General Practitioners, GPs. But in England many of the decisions are taken by the staff in the back-offices of the Clinical Commissioning Groups, CCGs.
There are, of course, complicated forms which GPs have to send in when asking for extra money. Will it set a precedent? Is there a cost-benefit already calculated? Is there a cheaper alternative? What if we do nothing?
And this seems all very scientific, or at least basic economics.
But I would like to suggest a new factor that is being used in deciding whether more money should be spent — can we see a picture?
You can write to them with an essay about your ME and fatigue, or muscle pains, or whatever. But is there a picture? A photo of a gory rash, a broken bone or a shadow on an X-ray, a twisted limb, even an old scar would be good. But all this vague mushy-mushy psychological stuff, well, where’s the proof? Like CSI staff with their cameras clicking, show us some real evidence, seems to be the unspoken message.
Functional MRI scans were a great leap forward. We could put people’s heads inside the MRI scanner, wide awake, and see images of changes in blood flow within the brain when we showed someone words or pictures, for example a bowl of chips.
At last — pictures! These scans are the latest truth drug, it shows someone was not lying, they really do feel a pain in their elbow, or whatever.
So, next time you and your GP need to ask for extra funding, I suggest you both think about sending pictures.