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The importance of managing media and politics in the NHS

The future success of the NHS depends on forward-thinking, innovative strategies. In which every available resource is used effectively, using more efficient, collaborative processes – and always with the objective of improving the quality of overall patient care.

It's a mind-set of continuous improvement and comprehensive control; where operations are optimised and those involved are motivated to achieve what is required.

However, not all elements can be accounted for in this way. As a public sector organisation, the NHS is also influenced by socio-political factors. Government policy, international trade, global economic volatility, immigration, employment trends and a variety of other macro issues all play a part in determining NHS performance and potential. Put simply, these can’t be controlled by those within the four walls of public healthcare.

As a consequence, media activity can be equally difficult to manage. Unfortunately, the media industry has to make money too, and so will focus on those stories that attract most public attention, that sell more papers or generate most clicks online. This usually means negative publicity about topical stories, at the NHS’ expense. It’s a well-established cycle, difficult to break, and can inflict great damage on those working so hard to improve the reputation of UK public healthcare.

Read our previous blog on reducing reputational risk, with Enterprise Data Management

Bad news affects everyone

External forces like the media and politicians will always do their own thing, according to their own agenda. This is even more likely in the current volatile economic and political landscape. For as long as the NHS falls under a political remit, it will always have to cope with this kind of unpredictability and external influence.

The effect of this can upset more than internal morale and objectives. It can be equally destructive externally, for those who matter most: patients.

Patients’ healthcare experiences can be directly influenced by their expectations. If someone thinks they are going to receive a poor standard of care, they are more likely to focus on the negative points of their particular treatment or pathway than the positive ones. As such, they’ll perceive problems more quickly, be more stressed and frightened generally – and will therefore probably have a worse overall health outcome, depending on the nature of their issue1.

Focus on strengths

If the NHS cannot directly counter these third party activities, what can it do? In fact, it is better off doing what it does best - providing excellent care to patients. Hospital and healthcare life goes on, regardless of political party, or what’s being printed. To complement this focus, NHS executives must develop their own response to manage the impact of negative activity effectively, and minimise resulting disruption. Sometimes, this may be about engaging directly with the perpetrators - embracing the political sphere, rather than reacting to it. Effective MPs can endorse and affect lasting improvements in healthcare provision, and promote them. Making politics work is vital for the NHS’ sustained success1.

This is no easy task. It requires a crystal clear strategy, delivered with unwavering vision and will. Leadership must be underpinned by collaboration across all parties and departments. Indeed, no single leader can accomplish the job. Rather, the organisational culture must lead, by promoting mutual trust and respect even in the face of extreme and complex issues.

Back in 2013, Professor Don Berwick urged all in the NHS to leave fear, blame, recrimination and demoralisation behind and move forward with energy and optimism2. This still holds true, and it is essential to create an environment which values, supports and rewards all those connected.

How digital transformation can make a difference

In order to create a confident external strategy, it helps to have coherent and supportive internal infrastructure. Digital technology – and specifically data management – can go a long way to ensuring the NHS is ready for even the most unexpected media and political story. Robust, reliable and ‘joined-up’ data management, which integrates data and makes information available and easy to use when it’s needed most, ensures that NHS staff of all levels are well prepared to field external stories with an accurate, informed response.

This mitigates risk and protects reputation. Disparate departments are unified, reporting is faster, easier and more accurate, and clinical decisions can be made more efficiently.

Mitigate risk, maintain control

As enterprise data management specialists, Insource can help you develop and deploy a robust EDM strategy. We've spent more than 20 years creating healthcare solutions alongside our NHS customers, for the benefit of the entire UK healthcare community. We can help you design and deploy user-friendly, robust data management strategies that meet your objectives while minimising risk and cost of ownership.

Our white paper 'Meeting challenges with change: Managing today's NHS' takes a closer look at the issues facing today's healthcare providers, and how innovative technology - and specifically data management - can help alleviate them. We hope you enjoy it.

Download the white paper Meeting challenges with change: Managing today's NHS.

[Footnote:]
1 Source: http://www.bigupthenhs.com/why/
2 Source: Berwick Review 2013 – from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/aug/05/nhs-safety-report-berwick-review