Monday, September 10, 2012

European news expands

Networks in Health , for whom we provide news, continues to expand:

10th September 2012

News Release

 Networks in Health extends its international reach via new online physician community partners

Networks in Health - a unique international alliance of online physician networks - has expanded its geographical reach by partnering with three communities in Belgium, Russia and Turkey.

The three communities will add 114,000 new physicians to Networks in Health's existing membership which comprises approximately 1.2 million physicians worldwide.

The new partners for Networks in Health which was set up in 2011 by - the UK's largest and most active network of medical professionals - to enable doctors to collaborate internationally, are:

Belgium: Mediquality - this community has a membership of 37,000 health care professionals. Mediquality also provides on-line media for physicians in Luxemburg and the Netherlands, which operate as BeNeLux.

Russia: iVrach - there are 65,000 doctors signed up to this community in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It is growing rapidly and has a particular focus on online education which has not been as accessible to doctors in these countries as it is in other parts of Europe.

Turkey: Doktorsitesi - this is Turkey's primary community with a membership of 12, 000 doctors and 1,200,000 patients. Established in 2004, the organisation is the primary community portal in Turkey and plans to launch a new portal offering more services and enhanced usability in the coming weeks.

Beverly Stainsby, International Account Director for Networks in Health, said: 'We are delighted to welcome these three communities to our network. They will enable us to expand our reach into other key nations.

'By providing a single access point to an international physician audience, the network answers a real need for pharma companies and other healthcare organisations that wish to research and engage with physicians internationally.'

Networks in Health, which started out with a selection of partners in Europe, before expanding to Latin America and Australia, also has close links with physician communities in the US and Asia.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chronically concerned about words

I let loose on twitter when the bastard word "publically" slipped through a couple of competent hands last night.

This spelling for publicly was first used in the 1920s, according to this dictionary of etymology. And the correct spelling, publicly, dates from the 1560s.

Curiously, another word of this kind is in common use in the health field. That may explain why health writers do not question the use of publically. This is "chronically". I've been uneasy ever since I came across it - surely the correct word should be chronicly? Like publically, it looks ugly on paper. Well chronicly looks no more right than does publically. And it seems chronically was enshrined into UK law in 1970. But search on-line etymology and you will find neither word.

There also appears to be a difference in pronunciation. You would say chronic-uh-ly but you would not say public-uh-ly. So perhaps it's a case of English spelling following the pronunciation, not the grammar.

The dictionary to which I referred suggests the reason is that all adverbs of this kind, except publicly, are spelt with the "-ally" ending. I wonder if this is right. I can think of the word "musically". But it is a different word from publicly. Music is a noun, musical  the adjective and musically the adverb. Public is an adjective as is chronic.

Perhaps the solution is the one I learnt in the days when I wrote bad schoolboy English. Avoid adverbs and use nouns where possible. A patient has a chronic illness rather than being chronically ill. You make a public statement rather than making a statement publicly. You give a plastic smile, you don't smile plastically (the word exists).

As this is the internet it is possible to find a list of all words that supposedly end in "-ically". Here it is. You can see the problem. Most are indeed bastard words - unpleasant and unnecessary. Some derive from adjectives ending in "-ical" - such as analytical and physical - and on the whole they grate on the tongue less than those derived from "-ic" words.

Can anyone produce a good and useful word ending in "-ically" and derived from an "-ic" adjective?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sport and fitness news

Check out our new pages that bring together sport and fitness news:

As the Olympics draws near, many people are thinking about sport. But does it inspire you to get fit or to take part? Writer Tom Hunt brings together ideas from all over the UK.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What's gone wrong with doctors' pension campaign

We headed the last posting here  "let's hear from doctors". On Twitter using the #BMAaction hashtag, you could indeed hear from a number of doctors.

Protesting doctor stays anonymous at the
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
But if you toured Britain's hospitals yesterday - as we did - you would have been disappointed, as we were. This was, after all, doctors' first industrial action for nearly 40 years and yet it was nearly invisible. At four major hospitals we found one doctor only declaring backing for the action, wearing the arm-band depicted. That does not mean we do not think most doctors are angry about their pensions - it means that doctors were not organised to express their anger in a meaningful way.

Some doctors have responded that picket lines were not appropriate - as there was no "strike". Well British Medical Association members voted for a strike and the BMA stated that some doctors might be asked to withdraw their labour. Guess what? If the BMA ever changed that strategy, it failed to communicate it.

And there lies the deeper malaise. The communication around the day of action - which was about pensions - was dreadful. And for doctors that's compounded a tough situation. It was the worst of issues for doctors to seek to stand their ground and fight. Some had recognised this - urging the union to concentrate its fire on the government's unpopular NHS reforms.

Instead doctors walked into the political trap set for them. Think about it - instead of fighting for patients they were fighting for their own livelihoods and for pensions which the average man could not even dream of. And not only were they not fighting for patients, they took action which actively denied patients treatment.

As yesterday progressed, the trap closed ever tighter on the BMA, once the organisation representing Britain's most trusted profession. As the government appeared to breathe a sigh of relief that not too many patients were affected, the BMA was left desperately claiming that more patients were affected than the government said. So much for minimising disruption to patients.

So what about the communication and the picket lines? Last week we contacted the BMA expressing concern that we did not appear to be getting many press releases or briefings about the proposed action. Statements were appearing on the BMA web-site - but were not being circulated in the usual way.

At the time we thought it was a technical issue. The BMA had brought in an external agency to distribute it's press releases. It had also shut down its media web-pages for some bizarre reason. These previously allowed us to check what we had received. Now, for all I know, we could be placed on some kind of C-list of "do not send".

By Wednesday morning we had maybe received two press releases over the two weeks running up to this "historic" day of action, both of them statements from BMA chairman Hamish Meldrum.

At about mid-day on Wednesday I emailed the BMA press office asking about picket lines and other events. No reply was received. Clearly we are minor players in their scheme of things. But not only was an individual reply not received, at no point was a briefing circulated to the media setting out plans for the day , how it would work and when press conferences would be held - together with contacts. Maybe we would have been deterred from touring hospitals if we had received that briefing.

As the day progressed, the BMA had to deploy its key activists onto the BBC, whose reporters were clearly, like us, unable to find ordinary doctors. Where were the ordinary doctors? Apparently inside the hospitals trying not to do non-urgent work.

It would not have been just us. Hundreds of local papers and radio stations would have been disappointed. Stories would be based on BMA spokespeople and NHS spokespeople only. Local papers and local TV stations were left without photos or film.

Now it may be the BMA's in-house team was not up to the task of running a major industrial action. Does it not have the reserves to employ outside help?

So, you BMA activists, picket lines are not just about stopping people from strike-breaking. They provide a presence on the ground - especially when you are losing the "air war". And the beauty of staging industrial action is that it allows you to establish picket lines. All you need is a few banners and leaflets. Interestingly my local evening paper today carries not a line about the action. It does however have a photo of a Unison picket line at a local hospital.

More importantly it has been evident for some time that the BMA media strategy has lost its way. When I worked on local papers we had a local press contact on the BMA. We are a new media news organisation. Where is the new media contact?

Worse still, it seems the BMA strategy for the new media is the utterly mistaken one of trying to compete with us - not work with us. Its output of general press releases - aimed not just at the new media but the trade press and the local press - is now frankly pathetic. Instead now its news is funneled straight into its trade paper, the BMA News and onto its own web-site.

Now we may not have a mass media following. But we do write for the mass of doctors who use Not only do they deserve to know what their major union is doing, the BMA itself ought to be using this medium to communicate with doctors - maybe giving itself a chance to win over the many doctors who are not its members.

So where now for the BMA? It holds its annual conference next week. Expect blood on the carpets. In spite of the bravado, doctors cannot be satisfied with the organisation of yesterday's day of action.

If the BMA wants to take on the government, it needs to find better strategies - otherwise it will go the way of Arthur Scargill's National Union of Miners in the 1980s. What about action that has no impact at all on treatment of patients - but maximum impact on the government and on public perception?

And that would be a shame because for generations the BMA has indeed provided a voice for the ordinary doctor.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

#BMAaction - let's hear from doctors

With headlines such as this - or this - the first doctor industrial action in 40 years is turning into a public relations disaster.

If not much happens apart from a bit of placard waving, then it's a failure. If the NHS grounds to a halt - which seems unlikely - then it's a catastrophe.

We'll be reporting during the day as doctors make their case. As we provide news for the major medical social media site,, we will be working to ensure ordinary doctors have a voice.

And when it's all over I promise another posting - maybe setting out what's gone wrong in PR terms.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Today we support this campaign which seems to be led by Wikipedia. It's not because we don't support effective copyright legislation. It's our lifeblood!

But by all accounts this US legislation seems weighted in favour of big business and will allow the sort of extra-judicial terrorism favoured by those who can afford corporate lawyers. We're not a big business.

We have a recent example - and it's on YouTube. YouTube appear to be using automatic systems to check for copyright infringement. If your video is the same as someone else's you may get a message accusing you of copyright infringement. On our channel is a video about London Fashion Week, which was posted on Women's News UK. It's never had many views and would not harm us if it was taken down.

However when we had a notice warning us we might be infringing the copyright of another business, our hackles rose. We investigated, challenged - and have never had an acknowledgement from YouTube that we have successfully defended our case.

What happened? The video was supplied by a News Agency on behalf of one of the Fashion Week's sponsors. Somewhat naively we posted it in whole - it was quite well made. The same video was supplied to others - and was posted on YouTube by someone else. No coincidence, no problem.

Had we not contested this, YouTube might have taken down our whole channel. We're not a TV station and rely on submitted videos for video content. We think it enhances on-line news and have our own approach and philosophy about using on-line video.

So we say yes to policing copyright, and no to an automatic assumption of guilt, often made by people who do not understand the business.

And, yes, our copyright has been breached in the past. We do monitor for breaches and we do have access to resources to take action in the case of infringement. But in reality, if you quote one of our articles in an on-line forum, we don't have a problem. All we'd like to see is an acknowledgement and a link, either to us or to the newsfeed, such as, to which we supplied!