Healthcare: Top-up treatments could mean PR boom

The announcement that NHS patients can top up their treatment could create huge opportunities for comms firms that fully understand the policy's implications, healthcare public affairs specialists have claimed.

But agency bosses warned that Health Secretary Alan Johnson's announcement giving the green light to NHS patients topping up their treatment means that healthcare agencies need to be clear about how they communicate information to patients.

Jamie Holyer, MD at Advocate PR, said that agencies fully in tune with government policy could prosper. He said: 'Some comms companies are going to win big if their data and product are strong, but those that do not consider the public will lose out badly.'

But agencies will need to integrate these government changes into their campaigns according to John McLeod, chairman of UK public affairs at Weber Shandwick. He said: 'The first stage for any PR campaign needs to be research into the varying factors that could affect it. This is a case in itself; if comms and PR campaigns fail to take this issue into consideration then their product could fail.'

The Government also announced changes to the way that drugs for cancer patients are assessed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), raising the ceiling for automatic disapproval for drugs costing more than £30,000 a year up to £80,000.

Andrew Harrison, a director at Hanover, said: 'With the Government now agreeing to top-ups and being more innovative with pricing, if a drug isn't available on the NHS because it is too expensive, that could bring a reputation risk for some drug companies.'

Kate Eden, account director and head of public affairs at Edelman, said: 'It will now be up to the comms team to demonstrate the value of the drug.'

Watch Weber Shandwick's John McLeod discuss the PR impact of NHS top-up plans at prweek.com/uk.

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