DoH is countering 'crisis' obsession

Is the NHS really in financial crisis? From the Whitehall perspective, it seems that some critics are so desperate that the NHS has not had a crisis since the winter of 2000 that they will seize on any excuse to proclaim one.

Yet behind the headlines about job losses that have dominated healthcare coverage in recent months lies a much more complex story. It is being told on a daily basis through briefings, interviews and telephone calls, not to mention letters to editors.

Of course, the radical changes being made to the NHS are bound to provoke resistance among those with vested interests, and spark arguments that are lapped up by the media.

The DoH welcomes this debate, but is also doing a lot to influence it. Our twin-track tactic of rebuttal and reform involves challenging inaccurate stories, and offering good-news alternatives about the benefits to patients.

We always knew there would be pain before gain. As changes to the financial system bedded down, some parts of the NHS had to take tough decisions about balancing the books. Claims about job losses put individual hospitals under the intense glare of the national media spotlight, so we have invested time in helping NHS communicators handle local issues. 

For example, we encouraged communicators to contribute to, and use, the survey by NHS Employers, which showed that job cuts would come through natural wastage, not compulsory redundancies.

Is our communications strategy working? Only time will tell whether journalists accept the measurable fact that the NHS is providing better services and higher quality healthcare for patients than ever.

In the meantime, the DoH’s efforts to redress the balance is increasingly paying off, reflected in fewer ‘crisis’-based stories.

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