That is NOT what the doctor ordered! NHS comes under fire for hiring brand agency to boost its image amid strikes and waiting list crisis
- MPs and campaigners said NHS ‘wasting money’ on ‘marketing madness’
- They argued that it should instead focus on improving access to doctors
The NHS has come under fire for hiring a brand agency to ‘cultivate the right persona’ and ‘restore lost confidence’ amid record waits for care.
NHS England enlisted the company to advise bosses on how to improve their image and credibility after being flung from one crisis to another.
It comes as the health service struggles to deal with waiting lists of 7.2 million, which surged as the pandemic delayed operations.
Leaders have also claimed they cannot afford to offer striking nurses and paramedics pay raises without cutting services, while creating hundreds of “watch” roles.
NHS logo on medical center (file photo). Leaders have claimed they cannot afford to offer striking nurses and paramedics pay rises without cutting services, while creating hundreds of ‘watch’ roles
The NHS did not disclose how much it pays the brand consultants, but experts said large organizations could be charged millions of pounds.
MPs and campaigners last night accused the NHS of ‘wasting money’ on ‘marketing madness’ rather than focusing on improving access to doctors.
Dennis Reed, from Silver Voices, which campaigns for older Britons, said: ‘Branding and imaging can sell soap powder, but only good quality and timely healthcare can improve the position of the NHS.
Wasting taxpayers’ money on this kind of marketing frenzy will anger the millions of elderly people who await hip and knee surgery in pain.
It’s about time the marketing students and well-paid executives who have so much say in NHS England listened to frontline health workers about how this money could be better invested.
“Confidence in the NHS is declining as waiting lists rise, staff morale plummets and there is no long-term recovery plan.”
Patient satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level in a quarter of a century, a damning survey found last year.
Only 36 per cent of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey said they were satisfied with healthcare, with the approval rating down by a third since 2020 and at its lowest level since 1997.
Hospital (file photo). The NHS struggles to deal with waiting lists of 7.2 million, which became huge as the pandemic delayed operations
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has since warned that up to 500 people a week die due to delays in ambulances and treatment.
Branding and digital design firm Thompson has made a number of recommendations following a series of interviews with NHS England bosses in the final three months of last year.
It says NHS England must ‘take a ‘sober’ voice … to avoid the perception that NHS England is an ‘ivory tower”, and also develop ‘messages that show empathy for the concerns on the ground’.
It added that the organization should also try to “actively combat the media-driven narrative that NHS England is made up solely of bureaucrats”. The findings are likely to form the basis of an NHS campaign to launch in April.
Tory MP Craig MacKinlay said: ‘The best way for the NHS to improve its public status is to focus on its core values and deliver what the taxpayer pays handsomely for – that is to provide frontline services… Wasting money to her degraded brand after spending millions on non-jobs won’t work.’
Tory MP Craig MacKinlay (pictured) said: ‘The best way for the NHS to improve its public status is to focus on its core values and deliver what the taxpayer pays handsomely for – which is to provide frontline services. Wasting money to rebuild its downgraded brand after spending millions on non-jobs won’t work’
John O’Connell, CEO of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: “Hard-working Britons will see this exercise as an unnecessary use of precious resources.”
Thompson is helping NHS England ‘position’ the organization’s ‘future role’ following the merger with NHS Digital and Health Education England. The inquiry, viewed by the Health Service Journal, concluded that ‘many stakeholders’ felt it was ‘important to restore what they see as lost confidence’ in NHS England.
Leaders surveyed said they want ‘the new NHS England’ to be ‘positioned first and foremost as a facilitator of improvement’ and for the organization to be seen as ‘part of the solution’.
Thompson has worked closely with NHS England in the past, including in 2016 when it helped ‘develop a comprehensive identity policy’ for the service.
NHS England and Thompson declined to say last night how much had been spent on the project.
But Tony Hardy, from branding agency Canny Creative, said rebranding costs could range from £10,000 for a village bakery to millions of pounds for larger organisations.