Disconnect exists between healthcare policy and NHS frontline, PRCA group concludes

The PRCA Healthcare group concluded at a recent meeting that there is a disconnect between parliamentary perceptions of healthcare and the reality for patients.

PRCA Health chair: Paul Kiernan
PRCA Health chair: Paul Kiernan

The meeting was the first in a series of healthcare events bringing together healthcare PR experts to discuss healthcare policy.

The group examined the results of surveys conducted by ComRes and Opinion Health, and found that there was an apparent  disconnect between healthcare at a policy level and the NHS frontline.

Key findings of a ComRes poll of UK MPs in the last Parliament and an Opinion Health poll of UK patients, presented to the PRCA’s dedicated health group, highlighted:

- The disconnect between parliamentary perceptions of healthcare and the reality for patients

- Patients differ from the general public in their attitude towards healthcare policy

- An overall parliamentary deficit of healthcare experts following the general election

- Patients are disenfranchised from parliamentary politics, but increasingly active on a micro level

- Cancer is a real priority for the whole House of Commons and the Conservatives in particular

Implications for industry

In the first of a series of healthcare events bringing together healthcare leaders from across the communications spectrum, the implications of these findings for the pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare-related organisations were discussed by PRCA Health.

Tom Black of ComRes reported that while the new ministerial team has expert healthcare knowledge, it is not seen as ‘electrifying’ and the general public’s expectations of improvements to the NHS are very mixed.

With less than 3% of the new intake of MPs having any background in healthcare, PRCA Health members commented that there is a need – and a clear opportunity for PROs – to ensure that relevant and timely information on health issues is available to them so that they are able to hold the Government to account.

Patient opinions

Eric Sharp of Opinion Health demonstrated that while patients were largely unfamiliar with the specifics of each party’s manifesto prior to the general election, they have strong opinions based on their own experiences of healthcare provision in the UK.

More than a third had asked their doctor for an alternative treatment and a compelling 69% of GPs reportedly acquiesced to this request.

PRCA Health members debated the significance of this degree of ‘patient power’ and how it might be more successfully harnessed in the context of communications aimed at policy-makers, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders.

Paul Kiernan, chair of PRCA Health, commented: ‘These issues are core to the changing nature of healthcare provision and we should all be considering them in our counsel to our clients.’

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