Big Data and Jeremy Hunt’s Junior Doctor Crisis

Friday 30 October 2015
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The amount of data created and collected on a daily basis is growing exponentially, characterised accurately as ‘Big Data.’ Every minute, 300 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube, Instagram users like 1,736,111 photos, Facebook users like 4,166,667 posts and 51,000 apps are downloaded by Apple users.

These figures are continuing to grow, and there is consequently an increasing need to decipher and present the data in ways that are meaningful and accurate.

While analysing and interpreting large amounts of data has traditionally been a difficult and expensive process, advances in Business Analytics technology and resulting products such as Connexica’s CXAIR mean that data can now be harnessed, analysed and presented with minimal effort, making it accessible to everyone.

The availability of such software therefore brings into question how a public figure as prominent as the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, could have found himself in such an antagonistic position over the misrepresentation of data.

Infographic showing how much data is generated during a single minute

Amidst the heated debates over scheduled changes to Junior Doctors’ contracts within the NHS, it has been reported that Mr Hunt has misrepresented information from a recent hospital study in order to support his case for more seven-day NHS care.

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, has written to the health secretary about his recent suggestion that higher weekend death risks are due to poor staffing. In the House of Commons last week, he suggested that the seven-day changes were ‘about the fact that someone is 15 per cent more likely to die if admitted on a Sunday than on a Wednesday because we do not have as many doctors in our hospitals at the weekends as we have mid-week.’

Junior doctors are currently paid ‘standard’ time for normal working hours, defined as 7am-7pm Monday to Friday. Under Mr Hunt’s proposed contracts, ‘standard’ time will be extended from 60 hours per week to 90 hours, and will increase from 7pm to 10pm every night of the week apart from Sunday.

Junior doctors are claiming that, by not being paid a higher salary for working antisocial hours, they will lose up to 30% of their salary. News has recently emerged that junior doctors are to vote on industrial action to protest against the health secretary’s plans, with strikes predicted to occur towards the end of this year if the motion passes. This will be their first strike in decades.

The news is contentious as people have been speculating how the usually sure-footed Mr Hunt could have allowed himself to get into such a fraught communications position. The importance of data and the ways in which it is represented become important factors to consider, especially given the impact that Hunt’s new contract will have upon the NHS and its workers if he manages to see it through.

The responsibilities afforded those with access to and control over data and information cannot be underestimated, and the importance of Business Analytics tools in the age of ‘Big Data’ is therefore difficult to ignore.

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