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An unproductive point of view


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Friday, 20 August 2010

An unproductive point of view

Last month a director of an NHS trust was disciplined for comments he made on Facebook about NHS staff, who were characterised as "lazy, unproductive, obstinate, militant, aggressive at every turn".

You may or may not agree with the point of view, but what do you think about the right to express it?

Most of us are keen on the abstract principle of freedom of speech but balk at the specifics. Say what you like about me unless it?s something I don?t like.

The NHS has developed a corrosive belief in its own virtue and a hyper-sensitivity to criticism, which is bad when it comes from outside but unforgivable when it comes from one of our own.

So the director?s real offence for many people will not be the substance of his comments, but the fact that he dared to make them in the first place.

The collective pride of the NHS and the loyalty of colleagues to each other and the wider organisation are to be cherished, but there are other kinds of group behaviour which are less admirable: closing ranks at the slightest provocation and an inability to distinguish between criticism and persecution.

If the director deserves censure it is not for undermining the morale of colleagues, speaking out of turn or airing an unpalatable opinion, it is for lack of judgement.

The internet gives us all the opportunity to broadcast our opinions to the ends of the earth; it also gives us the opportunity to make idiots of ourselves on a global scale.

The enormous capacity for embarrassment and career-limiting press coverage should be enough to make most people think twice about posting immoderate comments online. The second lapse of judgement was to choose Facebook, the home of high moral purpose and serious debate for the under fifteens. The question is not whether what he said was right nor whether he had the right to say it, but whether it was worth saying. And of course it wasn?t.

We are right to defend the right to criticise, but wrong to extend that right to every rant, whinge and bilious expression of disaffection. If we can?t tell the difference, we really are in trouble.

cymru77 says:
Apr 18, 2011 05:55 PM
Yes the NHS is hypersensitive.Speaking out-even quietly-can make you "unemployable".Anyone else heard/experienced this phrase?