The NHS has come under fire for hiring a branding agency to help ‘cultivate the right personality’ and ‘rebuild lost trust’ amid record waits for care.
NHS England engaged the firm to advise bosses on how to improve its image and credibility after lurching from one crisis to another.
It comes as the health service is struggling to tackle waiting lists of 7.2 million, which soared when the pandemic postponed operations.
Leaders have also claimed they cannot afford to offer striking nurses and paramedics pay rises without cutting services, while creating hundreds of ‘woke’ roles.
Leaders have claimed they cannot afford to offer striking nurses and paramedics pay rises without cutting services, while creating hundreds of ‘woke’ roles
The NHS has not revealed how much it is paying the branding consultants but experts said large organisations could be charged millions of pounds.
MPs and campaigners last night accused the NHS of ‘frittering away cash’ on ‘marketing madness’ instead of focusing on improving access to doctors.
Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, which campaigns for elderly Britons, said: ‘Branding and image-shaping may sell soap powder but only good quality and timely health care can improve the standing of the NHS.
‘Wasting taxpayers’ money on this sort of marketing madness will infuriate the millions of older people waiting in pain for hip and knee operations.
‘It’s high time the marketing graduates and highly paid executives who hold so much sway in NHS England listened to frontline health workers about how this money could be better invested.
‘Confidence in the NHS is going down because waiting lists are rising, staff morale plunging 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 revealed last year.
Just 36 per cent of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey said they were satisfied with the health service, with the approval rating down by a third since 2020 and at its lowest since 1997.
Hospital (file photo). The NHS is struggling to tackle waiting lists of 7.2 million, which soared when the pandemic postponed operations
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has since warned that up to 500 people a week are dying due to ambulance and treatment delays.
Branding and digital design agency Thompson has made a number of recommendations following a series of interviews with NHS England bosses during the final three months of last year.
It says NHS England should ‘adopt a “down to earth” type of voice… to avoid the perception that NHS England is an “ivory tower”’, as well as developing ‘messages that demonstrate empathy with concerns on the ground’.
It added that the organisation should also seek to ‘actively combat the media-driven narrative of NHS England being made up solely of bureaucrats’. The findings are likely to form the basis of an NHS campaign to be launched in April.
Tory MP Craig MacKinlay said: ‘The best way for the NHS to improve its public standing is to focus on its core values and deliver what taxpayers pay handsomely for – that is providing frontline services… Frittering away cash to rebuild its downgraded brand after spending millions on non-jobs will not work.’
Tory MP Craig MacKinlay (pictured) said: ‘The best way for the NHS to improve its public standing is to focus on its core values and deliver what taxpayers pay handsomely for – that is providing frontline services… Frittering away cash to rebuild its downgraded brand after spending millions on non-jobs will not work’
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: ‘Hard-working Brits will brand this exercise an unnecessary use of precious resources.’
Thompson is helping NHS England ‘position’ the ‘future role’ of the organisation after its merger with NHS Digital and Health Education England. The research, seen by the Health Service Journal concluded that ‘many stakeholders’ felt it was ‘important to rebuild what they see as lost trust’ in NHS England.
The leaders surveyed said they wanted ‘the new NHS England’ to be ‘positioned primarily as a facilitator of improvement’, and for the organisation 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 last night refused to say how much had been spent on the project.
But Tony Hardy, of the Canny Creative branding agency, said rebranding fees could range from £10,000 for a village bakery to millions of pounds for larger organisations.