Public Affairs: Soap Box - Jon McLeod, chairman, corporate comms and public affairs, WS

So did they listen? Was the NHS 'pause' for real? Or just a PR stunt to save the poorly understood and unloved reforms?

We won't know the real answer until we see the clauses amending or refreshing the Bill. One thing's for sure - if it's significant change, there's an arguable case that the Bill should return to square one on Parliament's legislative snakes and ladders board.

The coalition deserves some credit for the scale and openness of the listening exercise itself - involving a panel of experts, using regional events and a rudimentary online component. This was all good, basic comms practice.

The problem comes when you add in the politics.

After the listening exercising we had 'I love the NHS', from Cameron, and 'I saved the NHS from his lot', from Clegg. Indeed, one Liberal Democrat insider told his cohorts: 'We have genuinely detoxified Andrew Lansley's proposals'.

This is the sort of crowing that has the Tory right foaming at the mouth. It's what coalition is made of. A kind of unhappy second marriage with oodles of bitching between step-families. But if the Bill has been fixed in the way we are being told by all that it has, why did so many grown-up politicians sign up to it in the first place?

Some have argued 'great reforms, poor communication'. But, as so often with the coalition, there have been two, not always harmonising, messages put out. The problem is too much NHS policy is about structure and delivery and too little is about the patient experience. First the watchword was competition. Now it's integration. I'm not sure either mantra will 'play Milwaukee'.

Communicators shouldn't be blamed if they are handed an unsaleable message. There is a Derbyshire expression about polishing an object the consistency of chocolate mousse that cannot be printed in a family magazine like PR Week.

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