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Fact check: is it true that 1/3 of GP surgeries fails health standards?

There was an inspection of GP surgeries that came out last week, widely reported/headlined as "one third of GP surgeries" failing basic health standards. So is it true that one third of GP surgeries fails basic standards? No, and for a very simple reason.

The Care Quality Commission surveyed 910 GP surgeries (out of 8000 total) and found failings in one-third of them. But how did they pick the surgeries to inspect? Did they do it at random? No.

"80% were targeted because of known concerns. The remainder were chosen at random."

In other words, this survey was not a survey of all our surgeries, but of the ones that people were already suspicious about. In a sense, it was a survey of the worst of the bunch. When you pick your targets like this, it makes no sense to generalise the result to the rest of the GP surgeries.

What's the true number? Well we don't know. If we make the assume that all the dodgy surgeries were included in the batch of 910, the percentage would be 3.8%. It would be good luck to capture all the dodgy surgeries, though, so probably a bit higher than that. Still something to be concerned about, of course - but no crisis. The UK is still internationally leading in quality and cost effective healthcare so there's no need to panic...

Tuesday 17th December 2013 | media | Permalink

Ration Book Britain

Just been watching another episode of Ration Book Britain, on the TV channel with the confusing name ("Yesterday"). Ration Book Britain is a great series of programmes, combining World War II history with recollections from old folks, plus a great non-patronising approach to reconstructions such as how wartime cooking was done.

This episode was about fashion and it involved a really good kind of joint project: model Jodie Kidd (presenting the programme) introduced some old ladies to a class of university fashion students, plus some of the wartime rationing instructions (not allowed more than one pocket! no turn-ups! no double-breasting!), and they created some new clothes designs. So it was a mixture of modern fashion ideas with the make-do-and-mend approach, and the interaction and the outcome came across really well. Especially the reaction of the ladies when Jodie modelled a summer evening-dress made from bed-sheets.

Wednesday 13th April 2011 | media | Permalink

on the wikileaks video

I've seen the video released by Wikileaks. (In case you don't know: it's military footage from a US helicopter of about a 20-minute period during which the helicopter kills some people in an Iraq street, apparently including at least one Reuters journalist.) It's a horrifying video but frankly the way Wikileaks portrays it is odd - I had assumed, without much thought, that Wikileaks was some kind of impartial information-wants-to-be-free organisation, but it seems like they are deliberately slanting this in a particular way, so it seems they're more political than I thought.

It is a horrifying video, but worth watching to get an impression of the kind of situation that a helicopter pilot faces in a war situation. They can see some people. Do some of them have weapons? It's really hard to tell, visually, but the pilots say they've seen weapons including AK47s and an RPG. I certainly couldn't see any weapons - someone was carrying something on their shoulder which could be a camera, an RPG or any number of other things - but the video is presumably not as good quality as the original. The pilots certainly can't know for sure... but then when could you ever? It's really hard to tell what the people down there are doing. But the pilots are pretty gung-ho about it all - it's perfectly normal for soldiers in a war to talk in a way that would sicken civilians, but yes it sickens me the way they go about it.

The video is just a video, it doesn't give you any moral guidance, it doesn't make it clear whether what happened was wrong or right. They ask for permission to shoot, and they get it. They kill some people. They congratulate themselves about it. A wounded person is seen trying to move away. One pilot wishes out loud the wounded man would pick up a weapon, so he can shoot him again.

I can't possibly know whether the incident was normal or abnormal, legal or illegal (wrt Iraqi law, rules of engagement, etc). But you see really clearly the bizarre mix of bloodlust and bureaucracy in the pilots' decisionmaking, and the huge psychological gulf between the pilots and the people on the ground.

Wikileaks presents the video quite clearly with a spin on it - obvious from the start really, when they've put it on a website named "collateral murder". But the text that they use to surround and precede the video makes claims which are not evident from the video, and some claims which are counter to what the pilots seem to think is going on. In the video they label one single journalist quite repeatedly, but don't seem to label any of the other victims, presumably to highlight the campaign about the journalist? The use of the word "murder" is of course emotive and a moral judgment too. Wikileaks also calls it "indiscriminate slaying" which sounds extremely strong, and conflicts with the weird bureaucratic precision of the slaying actually depicted in the video.

Tuesday 6th April 2010 | media | Permalink

Children should not be allowed to read The Metro

I can understand why commuters with dead hearts and tired brains would read that hollow newspaper-shaped thing called The Metro. But children and teenagers? Can't we postpone the emptying of their souls just a little bit longer?

Friday 16th January 2009 | media | Permalink

Article on Radiohead, Saul Williams, and digital downloads

I wanted to blog some opinions about the move towards DRM-free digital downloads, made famous recently by Radiohead (but of course loads of others have done it). But a much better writer than me has already done it. This article about MP3 downloads is v good.

(Update: following some links from there I also found Steve Albini's article the problem with music which is interesting too. It's not about digital downloads.)

Sunday 18th November 2007 | media | Permalink

The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

Sometimes there are TV programmes which are so good that you want to keep them, and it feels completely unfair that they aren't like books you can put on your bookshelf. Stephen Fry's documentary about manic depression was one of those - full of great insight into the condition.

Tuesday 19th September 2006 | media | Permalink

Two marketing strategies: Sainsburys and Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has been sponsoring The Simpsons (when it appears on Channel 4, at least) for years, but just recently they've changed their strategy. A few years ago the sponsor's notice was something composed by an advertising executive on autopilot: a laugh-track, a picture of a pizza, and a reassuring voice telling us who it was who sponsored The Simpsons.

They must have read up on marketing psychology in the mean time, because the new branding is a crafty little trick of turning the sponsor's notice into a pseudo-game that consists of a random selection from a set of silly voices responding to the question, "Who's called the Hut?". The unpredictability of the responses makes it quite a lot like the in-joke in the Simpsons opening credits (when something different happens to the sofa every time the credits roll), and the daft voices used are designed to be imitated and for viewers to have fun with. When people make something their own - through imitation etc - that's when it really sinks in.

Sainsbury's have a new marketing strategy too. Their old tag line was "Making life taste better", which seems fairly bland on its own but then of course that's the point: since Sainsbury's sells such a wide variety of products to such a large group of people, the tag line had to be empty yet reassuring.

The new line is "Try something new today". The reason? They've been thoroughly analysing the data they extract from your Nectar cards, and realised that supermarket shoppers tend to buy the same limited range of items, week in, week out. Personally, that's what I want from a supermarket, but of course those who want to increase the company's market share naturally want you to buy more. So their new campaign involves (quite patronisingly, in my view) putting large signs in shops, and adverts on TV, telling you not to be so boring and to consider putting extra herbs and spices on your vegetables/chicken.

So far, so good, but there are two things wrong with this scheme. First, I've shopped in Sainsbury's recently and the instructions (which are pretty much everywhere once you're in the shop) are too distracting. I stand at the end of the tea and coffee isle thinking, "Teabags, we need some more teabags," but I'm interrupted by a sign declaring "Put some marshmallows in your cocoa," and the next thing I know I've forgotten what I was after in the first place. Supermarket shopping is a regular, automatic process, which people do in a mild trance (very similar to when driving a car), and interrupting the trance will make you forget what you were doing and feel less comfortable in the shop. It's the same kind of thing as the bottom-brush effect.

Second, a proportion of people will certainly be willing to try something new, but not indefinitely. They'll be happy to buy some nutmeg and try grating it over their bolognese, but very few of them will turn this into a ritual and carry on doing it every time they make some spag bol. And once they've tried a handful of the suggestions being blared out, they will start to fatigue and most people will in the end not respond to the suggestions at all.

So, the testable hypothesis that comes from all this is easy to make. The "Who's called the Hut?" campaign will outlive the "Try something new today" campaign. I'm looking forward to seeing if I'm right or not.

Sunday 25th September 2005 | media | Permalink
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