Henrietta Hughes, the new national guardian for speaking up freely within the NHS, recently said that "happiness is the best medicine" to help doctors, nurses and other NHS staff avoid low-level grumpiness at work and remain positive, despite all the recent political upheavals and storms-in-waiting.
Do comms pros need this medicine too? Maybe. The recent announcement by the Government that is aiming to trigger Article 50 and begin the mechanism to leave the European Union in March 2017 means the Brexit doom-mongers are out in full force again. For the media, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. But for comms professionals trying to advise clients on something still so uncertain, it’s a genuine challenge.
So how to do we beat the Brexit Blues and see the way ahead with positivity and excitement in the healthcare landscape?
Many of us are beginning to see a future in which UK science could flourish outside the EU. With a light-touch regulatory system, state aid for science and technology, and increased academic research funding, the UK could convert science and innovation into economic growth. Modern science is a global endeavour and staying attractive on the world stage is the only way to secure future investment that would ensure the UK retains its current position.
This is where comms can play a role by delivering positive messages about UK Health PLC. Innovation should be at the heart of a new approach to industrial strategy, alongside investment in science and innovation, and the use of the NHS as a test bed for data-led research.
I participated in the Google DeepMind patient engagement panel and was struck by the enormous potential of harnessing data from patients in the NHS and the wider public through technology we all use. If we all clubbed together, we could, as a nation, subscribe to the largest research test bed in the world to leverage this data to improve healthcare and, ultimately, healthcare businesses.
Why can’t we do what the Swiss do and have our own health databank – one that can empower people to exchange their health data to drive innovation in health sciences, from prevention to cure, at a better price with better quality for the benefit of the individual and society? This is the kind of positive messaging we need to embrace.
The UK is a leader in the tech and creative industries, and no one can match our expertise in areas such as fintech and blockchain technology, so surely we can stay ahead as leaders in health technology despite Brexit. But there is work to be done and part of that rests with how we communicate these positive messages to the world. All of us working in health have to be open to new thinking and doing in the sector, to drive new care models made increasingly possible by technology.
Let’s use the energy and optimism of the British public and open our doors to the world, and be seen as leaders in health innovation: and spread the word.
Tina Woods is head of Lansons Health and founding partner of GIANT, the Global Innovation and New Technology health event