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NHS to ask average Joe what he wants

It's exhausting being cynical all the time, but what a load of bollocks

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You know the NHS is tragically underfunded, overrun, inefficient and bureaucratic? Well, worry no more. Alan Milburn, secretary of state for health, is going to succeed where every other minister of health has failed since the 60s. How's he going to do it? By listening to doctors, nurses and us the public, of course.

It's true. No, really. There'll be a Census Day at the end of the month with leaflets and everything; a one-day Public Forum in Leeds and London and, er, loads more, um, oh yeah a website (!) too.

This prime example of how the National Health Service has entered the digital era can be found here.

As you can see, it's a pretty fancy affair. Six pages, different colours and some of those clever hotlinks. And if you really want you can email your opinion to some email server and Doris will have a flick through now and again in between her 12-hour shifts (as long as no one beeps her when she's nearly dropped off to sleep).

Despite the fact that this PR stunt is almost insulting in its limited effort to let the people say what they think, despite the fact that Mr Milburn has virtually no intention of listening to average Jo, what the hell does he expect to learn that he doesn't (if he's doing his job) already know?

Normally this sort of PR wouldn't be offensive - the government is putting a large cash sum (20 billion they say, but it won't be) into the NHS and it wants a bit of positive coverage. But survival of the NHS has become a serious issue and the British public are going to like any smokescreens.

If Mr Milburn wants our opinion: there isn't enough funding in the NHS, investment is too short-term, bureaucracy is too high, wages are too low so even good ideas are supposed to be implemented by low-paid (and fair to say, less intelligent than private sector?) managers, doctor culture needs utterly revamping, nurses need to be given more authority: the list goes on. And not one of these problems hasn't been known for at least ten years.

That said, we wish him all the luck in the world. ®

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