EDITORIAL - Better health PR starts from within

’Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation’ - is this as British Medical Association chairman Ian Bogle dreads just a case of ’spin with a grin’, or a realistic attempt to forge a new health partnership between individuals and the State?

’Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation’ - is this as British Medical

Association chairman Ian Bogle dreads just a case of ’spin with a grin’,

or a realistic attempt to forge a new health partnership between

individuals and the State?



The White Paper unveiled this week by Frank Dobson sets a target of

300,000 lives saved over the next ten years, plus a reduction in the

mortality gap between the rich and the poor of Britain. It is an

ambitious objective relying on large amounts of goodwill and enthusiasm

from the overworked NHS and the ability to surmount public cynicism

fuelled by hospital horror stories.



Dobson has already pointed out the need to establish communication

channels with teenagers and deprived communities who have, to date,

failed to take on board the Government’s sage advice on healthy

living.



Middle England has proved a relatively receptive target for Labour’s

good health messages - its media channels being well defined and

accessible.



However, the Department of Health and the NHS are now faced with the

task of effectively mounting a grass roots campaign without justifying

criticisms of nannying, or giving the impression of passing the buck to

the public.



The health service has always been research-heavy, both at the level of

central policy making and social service delivery, so there should be no

shortage of information regarding current public opinion.However, as the

NHS’s 50th anniversary campaign and the National Patient Survey

published in April have proved, research has not yet enabled it to crack

the crucial youth audience - one of the key targets of this new

campaign.



It may be that this indifference to health issues and public services is

merely an adolescent trait, however, there is a real danger that the

youth of today will carry this apathy into middle-age, resulting in a

long-term shift in attitude towards public health services. The key to

preventing this is likely to be the shift to a self-help philosophy but,

for the planned new services to be effectively sold into a disillusioned

public, the NHS Executive and the DoH must - as so painfully highlighted

by this year’s BMA conference - urgently address the issue of internal

communication.



Potentially, one of the key communications strengths of the NHS is its

access to local communities. There are one million-plus employees,

currently being alienated by the endless round of reforms without

consultation, who are going to have to be encouraged to buy into broader

campaign and turned into its ambassadors.



Before effecting a change in the mindset and health of the nation, the

NHS will need to address its own change management - a case of physician

heal thyself.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in