Case study: Pharma firm stimulates debate on the future of the NHS

The 70th birthday of the NHS last year provided a platform for pharma company Roche to create a wider conversation about how the world-renowned health system might evolve from there, with the launch of its 'NHS at 100' report.

A nurse preparing to take a patient's blood pressure (pic credit: sturti/Getty Images)
A nurse preparing to take a patient's blood pressure (pic credit: sturti/Getty Images)

It resulted in major media coverage, as well as being mentioned in a speech by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, after the report was released at the NHS Expo in Manchester last September.

The report was part of a strategy by the pharma group to take a leading role in the health debate and raise awareness of its brand without breaching strict rules prohibiting product promotion.

It presented the results of a poll of 5,000 young people, examining their views on what they wanted from the NHS at the time, and in the future.

Roche aimed to position itself as a company that works and collaborates with NHS England and the wider health system, reflecting its focus on patients across the UK.  


The key message from the report was that the future success of the service will depend on collaboration between the NHS, trusted third parties including the life sciences industry, and patients.  

Government stakeholders, industry representatives and the general public were the key target audiences.

The messaging of the report was boosted by being referred to in the health secretary’s keynote speech as a rationale for the government's new digital approach, as well as in a press release issued by the Department of Health and Social Care.

It was also communicated during a seminar at the NHS Expo during which Rav Seeruthan, medical director, Roche, and Tony Young, director of clinical innovation, NHS England, discussed the report’s findings.

Freuds and its sister agency, Republic, devised the campaign and created the report for Roche, as well as promoting it between September 2018 and January this year. 

Roche recruited BBC presenter Cherry Healey as an ambassador for the report. This resulted in her giving several interviews about her personal health problems, with the resulting articles mentioning her support of the company’s research.

In addition, Roche hosted a seminar at the King's Fund annual conference in November.

Measure of success

As well as securing the attention of senior government ministers, the campaign also resulted in 23 pieces of coverage, nine of them national, with a total OTS of 34.5m.

David Flynn, head of PR at Roche, told PRWeek: "This campaign was a great success because it was able to gain tangible traction across so many different channels, and with so many different stakeholders, whether consumer or government."

He added: "By coming out of the industry bubble and asking the public and Generation Z what they wanted from the NHS in 30 years' time, we gained a wealth of valuable insight that has already helped shape the narrative about the future of healthcare."

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