Healthcare: PR agencies advised over NHS shake-up

Healthcare comms professionals should respond to the Government's proposed NHS shake-up by looking for new strategic partnerships with pharma companies, according to leading industry figures.

Under the reforms set out in the recent NHS white paper, primary care trusts will be dissolved to make way for around 450 GP commissioning consortia that will be charged with slimming down budgets.

In response, many healthcare consultancies are looking to shift their offerings away from traditional brand-focused PR. Healthcare comms shop Packer Forbes held a briefing last week. The agency's MD Anna Gibbins said: 'As PR consultancies we need to be able to advise our clients about the changing environment and opportunities. They are going to be much less about product PR - which is what we've done for years - and more about creating joint initiatives with the NHS.'

Also at the event, Adrian Giles, head of South Worcestershire GP Commissioning Consortium, reiterated the need for pharma firms and GP consortia to link up. 'Forward-thinking pharma companies and enlightened GP consortia need to develop true strategic partnerships based on trust and good comms. However, the focus needs to evolve away from brand and towards improved healthcare provision at lower cost,' he said.

Healthcare public affairs specialists said the planned reforms were also changing the landscape for pharma public affairs.

Lexington director Jessica Fine said: 'We are no longer talking in terms of market access and medicines uptake but looking more broadly at the value propositions our clients can present to the NHS.'

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