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The 2020 Public Services Trust Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Media pandemic

By Charlotte Alldritt

Whilst happily sitting in the doctor’s surgery this morning, my short wait was interrupted by a man rushing into the clinic in a state of panic – feeling a slight temperature and a sore throat he demanded to see a doctor immediately. On hearing that there were no more appointments available until the next day, he declared (in a very loud voice, not unlike someone who wasn’t struck with a lethal virus) that he had swine flu and he could be dead by tomorrow. He then followed this declaration with an impression of a pig – I kid ye not.

My utmost apologies in advance to this man if it transpires that he actually has contracted swine flu, which – ‘is all over London’ he told the whole waiting room…but I must agree with Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today, that the media hype surrounding the potential pandemic illustrates the very real effect that news editors have on the public’s perception of risk. Whilst I do not think it a conspiracy ’stoked in order to…spend’ our way out of global recession, the issue highlights the impact the media can have on our expectations of, and demand upon, public services.

This man thought himself an emergency case and the surgery could do little to refuse him. In previous blogs I have discussed people turning up to A&E; to see hospital practitioners about a small graze or slight ear-ache. As ever, I firmly support the availabilty of public services for all, free at the point of need in the case of the NHS – but essential reductions in the cost of running these services puts a even greater onus on the media to help people make informed decisions. Further to Henry Kippin’s blog (The Meaning of (post-Budget) Life, 28/04/09), hyperbole for the sake of a headline is not the way to start having a sensible debate on what can and cannot be afforded in the austere years ahead.

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Posted by Charlotte Alldritt at 3:50 pm
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