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David Nicholson in charge at the Department of Health!

January 3, 2012

At the bottom right of the Department of Health website is a tag cloud which is an aggregation of terms that have been highlighted in Department of Health publications. Behind it is a popular tags list – which gives a numerical value to the tag cloud terms.

During the last three months of last year I have kept an (almost) weekly check on the tag list. The figures are not completely exact – I did miss a couple of weeks – however the overall shape of the data holds true. You will note that I have just added up the total number of tags for the whole of the survey period – they are not weekly averages.

First –all the tag cloud data is here – you can see all the tags used – I have tried to group these into categories that make sense – you may disagree with some of the groupings – more of these later.

Here are some findings.

Leaders voice


David Nicholson is clearly the guvnor! If you were expecting  two of the most senior Department of Health Officials – the Chief Medical Officer – Sally Davies or the Permanent Secretary – Una O’Brien to feature strongly then you will be disappointed – there is no mention of either of them.

In fairness to Nicholson – until the current government the Department of Health has by and large been the Department of the NHS so we should expect him to feature prominently. However as reform plays out one would think there would be an increasing dissonance between such displays of centralist leadership vested in one person and the ambition for greater decentralisation.

Its also interesting that there is no mention of Andrew Lansley or any of his ministerial chums. I assume that this is DH policy. Mind you given the deeply unpopular NHS reforms this is probably a wise move.

Priority Areas

Here are the 15 most popular tags used by DH during October to December 2011


  • Given the time of year the appearance of flu at the top of the list is no suprise. Again, its interesting to note that David Nicholson is the second most used tag on the whole DH Web Site!
  • Adult Social Care features once – coming in at 9th.
  • Public Health comes in at 14th with ‘diet’.

DH Priorities overall.

This final graph shows all the data grouped into the categories I mentioned at the start of the article.


  • I know that is not suprising to see that DH activity is dominated by the day to day management of the NHS – however the sheer scale of this stands out in the graph above – a fixation with the NHS – rather than with health and wellbeing.
  • System reform is the next most popular tag after NHS management.
  • Local Government merits little focus – as does adult social care
  • There are no tags referencing – the voluntary sector, health inequalities, inclusion health – which gives an indication of how importantly DH takes these issues.


If the Government Health Reforms are implemented how might the shape of this graph look in 18 months time?

  • No NHS management tags?
  • Nothing on system reform?
  • A greater focus on local government delivery?
  • More on Adult Social Care?
  • … and of course no mention of David Nicholson!

What do you think?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 09:28

    Mark, thanks for a really interesting post about tags used on the Department’s website.

    Your suggestions are helpful and we will definitely think about including tags for more broad topics such as NHS Management.

    It’s worth noting that we have modernisation web pages with a seperate tag cloud here: You’ll see a slightly different mix of tags, which reflects the more specific content on these pages.

    We have published our policy for use of tags here:
    and some background on how we have changed the Department’s digital presence:

    This is work-in-progress though, so we’ll be happy to take on board your feedback and any other comments published here or elsewhere.

    • January 4, 2012 09:55

      Thanks for the response Tim. While I don’t want to overstate the importance of tags and tag clouds I do think that they have an interesting role. They give an initial impression of what the values and activities of an organisation are – and can therefore encourage or put off engagement. I think this is particularly important for large and complex organisations like DH. I also wonder whether it is possible to give a weighting to tags – so that emerging issues that are currently on the margins are given greater precedence – for example the role of the voluntary sector, health inequalities, health watch etc.



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