Comms is Key as the NHS Turns 70

It’s no secret that the National Health Service is in crisis. An ageing population with complex health needs, underfunding, political agendas, staff shortages, and questions over the type and location of delivery, are just some of the huge questions that its leaders face.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the much-loved British institution. As well as the recent promise of some much needed funds, July 5 2018 will mark the NHS’s 70th anniversary. And NHS England is using it as an opportunity to whip up some much-needed support and positive PR.

Back in March this year, England’s top nurse, Professor Jane Cummings, announced plans to celebrate the landmark achievement, which includes a 70-day recruitment and retention campaign, highlighting the enormous contribution of nurses and midwives in the NHS, since it was founded in 1948.

The campaign will also focus on the wide-ranging and fulfilling career opportunities in the 21st century NHS. One initiative will see 165 specially appointed nursing and midwifery ambassadors tour schools across the country, to share their experiences and promote nursing as a career choice to young people.

Professor Cummings said of the initiative, ‘we want to highlight that nursing and midwifery provides the opportunity not only for an outstanding career, but the chance to have a profound and direct impact on the lives of thousands of people in a way that can’t be matched.’

Another aspect of the campaign will be a nationwide comms drive to end ‘pyjama paralysis’. This is built on the psychological insight that people who remain in their pyjamas in hospital are less likely to recover as quickly as people who are dressed. Rather than focus on the negative impact this has on hospital bed availability and resources, the campaign will highlight the benefits of getting patients up, dressed in their own clothes, and moving around, to boost their recovery.

Media on board

The media is getting involved with the celebrations too. ITN Productions and the NHS are partnering to produce a news and current affairs programme celebrating 70 years of the NHS. It will be a long-form, online programme championing the NHS’s achievements since 1948. As well as looking back at the breakthroughs within the health service, the programme will explore the opportunities for future innovation and development.

Presented by national newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, the news-style programme will combine interviews, news reports, and sponsored editorial profiles of some of the leading organisations and professionals within healthcare. The programme will provide a platform to exchange ideas on the pertinent issues facing our healthcare system. The programme launched at the NHS Confederation on the 13 and 14 June, in Manchester.

In addition to the nationwide plans, preparations are being made at NHS Trusts across the country to celebrate the big day, from tea parties, to special 10p coins and ceremonies at Westminster Abbey and York Minster.

Good comms is key to restoring confidence in the NHS

According to a recent FuturePRroof report, the survival of the NHS depends on a concerted and unrelenting comms approach. It needs people to fight for it, and the 70th anniversary is a great opportunity to start a national conversation about how it needs to change to survive the next 70 years. NHS communicators are being encouraged to speak up via the NHS’s dedicated Facebook group, which has over two thousand members. The platform is an opportunity to share information, ideas and best practice. These comms professionals play an important role in telling the story of the NHS to the public, patients and staff.

If you’re a comms professional, you can join in the conversation here.

PR view

In an age of openness, accountability and transparency, health and social care is one of the most complicated and emotionally charged subjects out there. Along with A&E waiting times, there’s been high-profile media coverage and criticism of incidents such as the data loss scandal that hit the NHS last year. This saw hundreds of thousands of pieces of correspondence go missing. And the WannaCry cyber-attack that affected the NHS in May 2017, grinding comms to a halt.

To counteract the negative press, there’s a need to deliver communications activity at all levels across the NHS and wider health care sector, to manage reputations and build public confidence in services. After all, if the public doesn’t have confidence, the NHS will suffer further.

This anniversary presents an ideal opportunity to showcase innovations being developed today. It will also encourage future-gazing and give a framework for charities, industry and the NHS to paint a picture of what the next 70 years might bring.

Thanks for reading. It means a lot. Follow me for more of the same. And come and say hi on Twitter or LinkedIn!

This article was originally published on the PR Superstar website.

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Jill Kent aka PR Superstar

Jill Kent aka PR Superstar

A straight-talking, hardworking ex-senior journo turned PR pro with 25 years in the business, a book full of contacts, and a nose for a story.