Media Maladies

Article excerpt

While, as you may be able to tell, I love writing this column, one of the depressing aspects of scouring the media for health-related stories is the recurring regularity of particular stories and themes. Anyone who has ever delved into the much-maligned area of media and cultural studies will know that this is how the media operates - write the story first and fill in the names later, much of it is based on Propp's work on the fairy tale narrative, good versus evil, heroes and villains etc. So, Princess Diana is dead but will she lie down? Not if you read the Daily Express, she won't, because the wicked stepmother doesn't fit the bill.

Anyway, this month sees the return of our old friends 'robustness' and 'competence' and 'fit for purpose'. As a nonexecutive on the board of a PCT that has achieved financial balance each year since its inception my reward is to be told I can reapply for my own job. My chief executive has to do the same to make sure he is fit for purpose. What if they think that he is not? The point is we were all interviewed for jobs five years ago. Are they just checking they didn't make a mistake?

The BBC tells us doctors are also to face competence checks - oh Shipman, so much to answer for.

Public policy, many argue is now media driven and totally geared to preventing the acts of extreme individuals, which we know we can never really do without curtailing civil liberties. But, hey, we should all be afraid. I am not saying that we should not evaluate whether people are competent or not although there is a question of criteria. John Prescott's vilification and the judgement that he's incompetent seems to be based on the fact that he is a class traitor (he played a game of croquet) to a class despised by New Labour (and he is stout and from the North and hasn't lent Tony any money or he would be Lord Prescott). More than that is the underlying assumption that we are all somehow doing it wrong.

The NHS deficit is, we are told (again) due to managerial incompetence. …