Monday, 6 April 2009

Metrics and Marketers in the NHS – a comment

Yesterday I attended an event at St. James University Hospital in Leeds (yes, Jimmy’s off the TV) on the subject of Metrics and Marketers in the NHS.

The event was introduced by David Thorp Director of Research and Professional Development and presented by Mark Stuart Head of Research, both of The Chartered Institute of Marketing.

There were some interesting points raised throughout the presentation. For instance, it was said that ‘number of lives saved’ was not a metric used by the NHS, and that there was a tendency within the NHS management structure to measure what was easiest to measure, and that this was often not the true key factors.

It is in this distinction that the main issue with this piece of research lies. The presentation seemed to be attempting to produce a one size fits all approach to measuring marketing. Although this seemed preferred to over 40 KPIs defined by the Department of Health, it is not possible whilst Acute Trusts, PCTs and all other organisations represented at this event were being treated as the overall NHS.

From my perspective, a gentleman in the audience hit the nail on the head with the first question of the session. He stated that although the goal of the Acute Trust and the PCT (mainly via health promotions and social marketing in this context) is better health for people, the systems for measurement are very different indeed and that it would serve only to confuse when we attempt to lump the two together.

That said, it  was clear was that this once dirty word of “marketing” is now much more accepted, and to some extent much better understood within the NHS.

At the secondary care level, it was suggested that by the end of 2009 it is expected that every hospital in England will have at least trialled a patient experience collection and response system. This truly is a step towards marketing and may make those think that there is no place for marketing in the NHS (“why should we waste money advertising a hospital that should be spent on patient care?”) think again.

At the primary care level, it’s clear that social marketing is indeed the next big thing and everywhere I go more and more people are talking about it.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing have produced a White Paper that clearly shows that there is a line between secondary care and primary care marketing.

Specifically, there are some excellent models and explanations drawing from the work done by NHS Yorkshire & Humber Trust – though this is a good job really as they will spend over £26m on campaigns in 2009, all of which can be accounted for.

We do not have permission to offer the paper for download, though it can be requested from the lovely people at CIM by emailing