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'We love the NHS' campaign demonstrates power of Twitter

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'We love the NHS' campaign demonstrates power of Twitter

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Health

'We love the NHS' campaign demonstrates power of Twitter 'We love the NHS' campaign demonstrates power of Twitter

The extraordinary outpouring of online support for the NHS is the latest indication of the power of micro-blogging site Twitter.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah used the website to add their voices to the debate, as did countless numbers of internet users eager to share their experiences of the health service.

The surge in messages about the NHS was prompted by attacks on the institution in the United States, mainly from right-wing Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama's healthcare reform plans.

Because of its transatlantic reach, Twitter has proved to be an ideal way for supporters of the NHS to get their message across - provided they stick within the strict 140 character limit for posts on the site.

The result has been #welovetheNHS becoming one of the main "trending" topics on the site.

In a "tweet" from the Downing Street, Mr Brown said yesterday: "NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there."

Mr Brown's wife added her own comment, saying: "#welovetheNHS - more than words can say."

Today, Schools Secretary Ed Balls added his own contribution, saying: "History will judge the NHS as Britain's (& Labour's) greatest post-war achievement.. And the US will get there too in the end."

Twitter was previously used as a tool in support of the opposition during the Iranian election and its aftermath, providing a way of sharing information despite a crackdown on media coverage by the authorities in Tehran.

And last month Labour's Sadiq Khan announced to the world that he had been promoted to Transport Minister using the site before the appointment was officially made public.

Labour whip Kerry McCarthy is one of the most prolific political tweeters in the UK.

She said the site had the potential to transform politics, making it more accessible to citizens.

Ms McCarthy said: "The reason I like using Twitter is because it's actually a great way of bringing together people who are politically active, whether they be elected representatives of party activists, and then putting them together with people who have opinions but are not necessarily politically engaged."

The site is more immediate and accessible than traditional ways of becoming involved in politics, such as turning up at town hall meetings, and allows politicians to engage with a wider audience than just going out on the doorstep, she said.

"I think this really could transform the way we do politics in this country," she said.

The use of Twitter and blogs could help address the public's "disaffection" with MPs, she added.

The #welovetheNHS campaign has demonstrated that ordinary people with strong views about a subject "can potentially have an impact on the politics of a world superpower".

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