Liam Farrell: Causing a bit of a flutter on Twitter

Learning how to use social media is an integral part of every doctor's education. No, seriously, there's a lot going on out in cyberspace and we have to keep up or risk becoming obsolete.

I joined Twitter a while ago and am gradually beginning to appreciate its potential. News arrives more quickly than from conventional sources - whether it's the US invading some country that was annoying it, or Peter Odemwingie not being transferred to QPR, there's always someone close to the action with restless fingers, and once the tweet is out, the message spreads like wildfire.

It's also great fun following obnoxious people and having my prejudices about their narcissism instantly confirmed.

On the other hand, sometimes my prejudices can be confounded, which is unsettling, as we Irish hold our prejudices dear; they are as deep and atavistic as the peat. For example, I'd always considered Piers Morgan just a second-rate game show host. But he now has a talk show on CNN, has emerged as the chief advocate for gun control in the US, receives a torrent of abusive tweets from the rednecks, and yet always responds with humour and dignity.

The medical benefits of tweeting are also worth exploring; the strict word limits ensure that any information imparted is satisfyingly concise. While I sometimes share little nuggets of my own wisdom, I prefer to follow colleagues like Dr Ben Goldacre and Professor Edzard Ernst.

It's also a handy watchdog for the latest assaults on the NHS. According to the Twitterverse, the NHS is aiming for 'real-time performance management' driven by feedback from patients.

A bewildering phrase, yet another piece of management-speak imported into the NHS to make things even more chaotic, all part of the Tory grand plan to underfund, undermine and run down the NHS until it is barely functioning.

And then they'll throw up their hands in fake horror and say: 'Look, this is exactly why we need more private medicine.'
  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.

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