We could call them ‘orwells’ – words that, as we read or hear them, should automatically raise doubts as to their full intent and precise meaning. They may be giving cover to a nasty political policy or to unwanted social change or to the latest wiles of capitalists. They may be deliberately vague – in a ‘make what you can of it’ sort of way. They may be lies – demonstrably fakes.
Take for example the current explosion in the use of ‘hubs’. They used to be ‘units’ or ‘centres’ or ‘groups’. Now the moniker of choice tends to be the ‘So-and-so Hub’.
Are these the kind of hubs that hold the axles and are thus instrumental in keeping the wheels apart? Or are these hubs from which spokes radiate? Or are they both? Or are they anything we care to make of them?
Are they concentrations of effort in a particular place? Or are they a base from which services radiate into the community? Perhaps they are nothing new but simple carry a modish title that has no accurate descriptive meaning whatsoever.
We should just think a little before we accept any hub as necessarily good and not just a new way to save money.
When Wiltshire Council closed its school music service, much of the responsibility and work passed to Music Hubs – which are very mini-hubs. When the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Wiltshire found a new lease of life, part of the services developed through ‘hubs’ based on secondary schools.
One of our High Street banks is currently advertising its ‘Investment Hub’. There is a Copyright Hub, a Knowledge Hub, a People Hub – and there is the Impact Hub which is intent on forming a ‘global community’ and boasts a fuller title as ‘The Impact Hub Global Network’. Hmmm – ‘network’.
When Wiltshire Council withdrew most of its youth workers and organisation it set up ‘Local Youth Networks’ – perhaps in that case a hub would have been too expensive and might have needed a expensive physical base. A ‘hub’ should be somewhere, a ‘network’ can by anywhere or nowhere – and may just exist in somebody’s car, or on their laptop, or – dare I mention it – in somebody’s Cloud.
As well as being a cover-up for austerity, ‘hub’ is a moderniser’s word: it is an ‘all Blair and no trousers’ sort of word.
Does it really matter what name changes comes under? Yes, it does. Hubs matter and have to be watched. Coming down the line is a new government policy on primary care that will affect our access to GPs.
As the great Lansley top-down reorganisation unscrambles, all GP practices in England face a “Two year plan to roll out hubs”. That’s the headline: it seems that these will be ‘regional hubs’ covering populations of up to 50,000.
What this will mean for the recently amalgamated Marlborough and Pewsey practices remains to be seen. It is also unclear how this plan will fit rural areas.
The aim appears to be to allow these hubs “to share multidisciplinary teams, expand diagnostic facilities and pool responsibility for urgent care and extended access.”
Uh oh: the NHS England plans call for GP networks to work in “networks or hubs.” It may soon be make-their-mind-up-time: do they want hubs or networks or are hubs now being redesigned as networks?
Most of the smartest wheels have hubs – but reinvention of the hub does not necessarily lead to utopian solutions to the nation’s problems.
So check out the parties’ General Election manifestos for the use and abuse of that single syllable word ‘hub’. In the meantime, it may be best to stick to using ‘hub’ for your router and those bits of techy stuff you stick lots of USBs into.