Time to seize the moment

Is the Health and Social Care Act too good an opportunity to miss for healthcare agencies?

Tim Geldard is a director at TogoRun
Tim Geldard is a director at TogoRun

At the turn of the millennium, and to great fanfare, Tony Blair and his Labour Government announced a ten-year plan of reform for the NHS.

Heralded as the biggest change to healthcare in England since the NHS was formed in 1948 - a claim also levelled at the 2012 Health and Social Care Act - the imaginatively titled NHS Plan outlined a series of changes that by 2002 had led to the creation of more than 300 Primary Care Trusts across England, groups responsible for about 80 per cent of the NHS' annual expenditure. Ten years on, there is more than a slight sense of deja vu.

The enactment of the Health and Social Care Act will see a radical restructuring of the NHS, and powers for commissioning transferred to GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), of which 229 are planned.

This transition will possibly be smoother than it was ten years ago, having learned significant lessons, including the involvement of the private sector to ensure the necessary competencies are in place. This was a highly contentious move when first mooted as a means of addressing shortcomings in PCT commissioning, and is still deemed so by many including the British Medical Association.

However, on 1 April, CCGs, supported by the NHS Commissioning Board's local area teams and other bodies such as Health and Wellbeing Boards, Healthwatch and the rest of the NHS, were not likely to have suddenly and miraculously aligned.

So how does this translate as an opportunity for the pharma industry? In the majority of cases, no longer do pharma firms see commissioners just as a hurdle that needs to be overcome. The pharma industry has become a welcome bedfellow, with resource and problem-solving expertise. So is the trajectory already set, or does the Act provide a chance to again redefine this partnership specifically for comms?

As comms professionals, we are regularly charged with raising awareness or educating healthcare professionals and consumer audiences on effective disease management. In this role, we have been trailblazers, using novel ways to ensure message cut-through.

While we continue to innovate, suspicion lingers among some parties as to our motivation and impartiality, and how trustworthy these campaigns and resources are. The traditional response to this is engagement and partnership with third-party organisations and charities, but for various reasons, we often find ourselves facing a significant roadblock to success.

How do we address this? In the same way that the relationship between pharma firms and commissioners has been redefined as a provider of significant value to the NHS beyond the drugs they manufacture, so can we redefine our relationship with the new NHS bodies, helping to increase their comms footprint.

Every year, the pharma industry invests vast resources in the development of online and mobile disease-awareness campaigns. Many are award-winning but doomed to a short shelf-life as a result of the necessary, changing priorities of pharma firms.

Recently, a number of firms have looked to address this issue by passing ownership of websites to third parties and charities.

This model has the potential to be replicated, with CCGs or Health and Wellbeing Boards neatly aligning to their remit as promoters of public health, drivers of health improvement and the tackling of health inequalities. The potential is significant and, as healthcare communicators, we need to seize the moment. If we do not, we could be waiting another ten years until the next, inevitable NHS upheaval.

 

VIEWS IN BRIEF

How are the NHS reforms changing your work?

From the moment the Bill was first tabled, the media have been awash with news and opinion, and it's rare that a meeting passes without a client asking how we integrate our approach.

Which TV programme title best sums up the culture of your agency?

Jim Henson's The Storyteller, because we all know 'the story is the thing'. The untold story is even more powerful - like that of our namesake Togo, who helped save thousands of lives from an outbreak of diphtheria in Alaska.

Click here to view more from the Healthcare PR Ideas Lab

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Ideas Lab

Careers: Leadership - A route to the boardroom
Sponsored feature

Careers: Leadership - A route to the boardroom

Senior communicators now need the knowledge and ability to take on a more central corporate role.

Digital dilemmas: Social customer service
Sponsored feature

Digital dilemmas: Social customer service

In the first of a new series, our digital expert explains the best way to manage social customer service.

Asia is not a flight of fancy
Sponsored feature

Asia is not a flight of fancy

Asia presents exciting opportunities for clued-up comms professionals, says VMA Group's executive director/head of Asia-Pacific, Katrina Andrews.

Make an immediate impact
Sponsored feature

Make an immediate impact

Employers' use of interims to solve specific problems has created a career path that has shaken up the comms jobs market, says VMA Group CEO Julia Meighan.

Take responsibility for your own development
Sponsored feature

Take responsibility for your own development

The days are gone when you could sit back and wait to be trained. CIPR senior policy and PR officer Andy Ross advises you to get ahead by planning your own training.

Employing the right people is key for a hybrid agency
Sponsored feature

Employing the right people is key for a hybrid agency

Switching from PR to comms consultants is facilitated by recruiting widely read digital mavens from a range of backgrounds, who have an affinity with our organisational culture

You can have your cake and eat it - especially beside the seaside
Sponsored feature

You can have your cake and eat it - especially beside the seaside

Inspiring people to make healthy decisions, while spoiling themselves occasionally, is an ethos that helps attract staff.

Adapt to stay ahead of the game
Sponsored feature

Adapt to stay ahead of the game

Employers don't just want digital expertise, they need people who can show creativity and adaptability across all media, says VMA Group CEO Julia Meighan.

Your next job? Find somewhere that shares your values
Sponsored feature

Your next job? Find somewhere that shares your values

The recruitment process should be a genuine two-way conversation. Use it to explore what really matters to you, because that's what can turn a good job into one you love.

Perfecting mixology makes inVentiv a great workplace
Sponsored feature

Perfecting mixology makes inVentiv a great workplace

A good office is just like a classy cocktail with the right relationship between the ingredients; we have no walls and no titles - sheer ability is all that determines the challenges one faces.