Campaign: NHS Live
Client: Department of Health
PR team: Jack Morton Worldwide and in-house
Timescale: Ongoing from April 2004
Following a major public consultation in 2003, NHS Live launched to help staff think about how they could improve services. It was also set up to increase patient access and choice and to create a more patient-centred NHS. Objectives
To involve patients, the public and staff. To enable shared learning across the NHS network and public services. To recognise the contribution of NHS staff in improving public services. To involve 300 NHS trusts and obtain funding from private sector sponsors.
Strategy and Plan
Experiential marketing agency Jack Morton Worldwide, alongside management consultancy Stanton Marris, applied a 'customer service value chain' to the NHS Live programme. This involved mobilising frontline staff to enable them to make improvements from the bottom up rather than be told what to do from above.
The team had to overcome the perception that NHS Live was 'just an event' by emphasising its role as an ongoing enabler of change. The initiative was marketed to local NHS Trust chief executives to engage as many NHS and social care organisations as possible in the programme's first year.
NHS Live 'leaders' were appointed to communicate with staff directly.
In turn, these leaders began building local project teams involving patient representatives, staff and relevant stakeholders from other sectors of the healthcare industry.
To ensure that NHS Live was seen to be part of other Department of Health initiatives, it was linked with relevant strategies. In July 2004, for example, NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp published an update to his reform strategy with the 'NHS Improvement Plan'. As it chimed perfectly with NHS Live's objective to support patient-focused improvements, the team demonstrated to leaders how their projects were already linked to, and supportive of, Crisp's plan.
A national one-day conference was held last July to energise NHS staff.
More than 3,000 staff attended, as well as the then health secretary Dr John Reid and Tony Blair. The event closed with the Health & Social Care Awards, which recognised staff for their efforts and achievements.
Measurement and Evaluation
More than 300 NHS organisations have signed up to NHS Live, each with teams comprising staff, patients, stakeholders and the public working on local improvement projects.
The first batch of private sector sponsors has been secured, including Accenture, AstraZeneca, Boots, Fujitsu, Olympus, Oracle and Pfizer, while discussions are under way with another six organisations. Nearly 60 NHS Live projects have gained sponsorship so far.
According to a survey of 181 NHS organisations (taken between 20 December 2004 and 21 January 2005) 85 per cent stated they were on track to achieve the planned outcome of their projects.
A further 93 per cent are confident that NHS Live will deliver value for patients, users, public and staff. Of the 28 sponsors surveyed, 81 per cent said their understanding of the NHS had improved through their involvement.
'NHS Live has reinforced the benefits of listening to patients and using their ideas to redesign the service,' says one of the leaders, Simon Holden.
Michael Smeeth, head of UK healthcare at Fleishman-Hillard, is a former comms director at Brent Teaching Primary Care Trust.
It is fair to say that national initiatives are sometimes greeted with scepticism by individual NHS trusts, as there are many people with the attitude that 'we have seen it all before'. It is precisely this thinking that often hinders the sharing of great ideas in one of the world's largest organisations.
Starting from the position that the campaign had to involve the whole NHS system from the bottom up was sensible but immediately created a logistical problem - because to effectively communicate the vision of NHS Live to frontline staff would require the message to be delivered via a number of people.
This led, in my opinion, to some of the impact of the message and the vision of NHS Live being lost by the time it filtered down to staff. The 'what's in it for me' factor would have been less than clear to some workers.
Having said this, by the time of the conference there was a perceptible buzz from those involved. I think the campaign was effective in engaging staff and private sector sponsors, but it runs the risk of losing the momentum it has gained if it is not followed up effectively.
On the whole it is a solid campaign that has achieved much of what it set out to do, although there is still a way to go.