Talking up the NHS: Whose job is it anyway?

By Louisa Desborough, Director, Freshwater Health and Social Care

Three cheers for the NHS Confederation’s Dr Karen Castille, who writes in Health Service Journal about the importance of celebrating our NHS.  

Week after week, we are bombarded with news stories and comment pieces about wasted money, heartless care staff and management incompetence.  Meanwhile, back on the frontline, our NHS heroes struggle on doing what they do best; drawing on their combined skills, experience and, yes – compassion, that are the envy of every other healthcare system in the world.

It’s little wonder then that NHS staff increasingly report feeling overworked and undervalued.  And as successive NHS inquiries have demonstrated only too well – the apathy that creeps in when staff morale is low can be a disaster for patient care.

Dr Castille’s suggested remedy is simple: we can all play our part to redress the balance by making sure that for every negative NHS story we hear about, we share the details of two positive ones.  Anyone who works in the NHS knows how simple this should be.  And in spite of the negative publicity, the public would seem to agree – a recent Ipsos MORI survey reports that it is the NHS that makes people most proud to be British. 

So where are these good news stories?  Why don’t we get to hear them more often?  And, perhaps the most important question for NHS leaders, whose job should it be to promote them?

‘Good communication skills’ appears in most people’s job descriptions these days.  Most NHS organisations have a member of staff, sometime even a full team of people who have ‘communication’ in their job title.  But they devote so much of their working week to servicing insatiable media, stakeholder and public appetites for information, that they simply don’t have the time to go hunting for good news stories.  And when they do find one, their journalist contacts would far rather talk about their complaints record, budget deficit, or latest senior team departure. 

The answer lies in strong leadership, which prioritises the exchange of good news and insists that everyone in the organisation has a responsibility for sharing it.  Not everyone has the skills to articulate how a technical initiative underpins an organisation’s values.   Or the journalistic nous to write a press release that will get the attention of a national newspaper.  But everyone can take a moment to reflect on something that they, or their colleagues, have achieved.  And most importantly – to tell someone about it:  why it was important, why it was new, who it helped.

If everyone working for the NHS resolved to share just one positive NHS story at the end of each working week, perhaps we could all start work on Monday morning feeling a little prouder, a little braver and better equipped to generate more positive headlines.


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Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017