Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Who commissions Health Campaigns in the Big Society?

It goes without saying that at the moment the NHS faces somewhat of an uncertain future. The reforms currently going through Parliament propose the largest restructuring of the service since it's birth.

But just who will be responsible for what?

Many are unsure exactly what their role will entail in the new system, as responsibilities shift from the soon to be defunct SHA's and PCT's, over to GP Consortia and local Councils, as well as the new bodies Public Health England and the National Commissioning Board. That's not to mention the Private and Third sectors, who will also have a part to play as more services are put out to tender.

Here at Rewarding Marketing, we're especially interested in our specialist area. Who will be commissioning Health Campaigns, along with other aspects of Public Health, Social Marketing and communications?

It's something we're not particularly clear on and it seems we're not the only ones.An article over at PR Week, draws attention to comments by the Head of Comms for NHS London, Stephen Webb, who himself is unclear on where responsibility lies. He raises concerns that as we move into a more localised structure, coordinated national campaigns may suffer. Country wide communications aimed at raising awareness of potential epidemics, such as swine flu, or addressing a national problem area, like obesity, may struggle with consistency, if delivered through the many GP Consortia's suppliers.

The Department of Health where quick to respond, with a spokesman rejecting the concerns, stating that "... campaigns that have a strong rationale for a single, coordinated action will still be commissioned nationally."

This may well be the case, but the story still demonstrates that we maybe shouldn't feel so bad about not knowing, when even Comms Directors within Strategic Health Authorities are confused.

Clarification on this point may not be as others, but as preventative measures and 'nudging' are both espoused by the Government as key objectives, it needs to come soon.

This is especially the case as Health campaigns and the like are delivered over time frames and are often interconnected, so embarking on one now, when it's completion may be uncertain, is difficult to justify. This feeling may well be the reason for the general freeze on activity at the moment, but taking the foot off the gas, as it were, may well lead to backwards steps in the populations health.

We have demonstrable, positive outcomes as a direct result of the health campaigns we've delivered, as should all good initiatives. When Social Marketing and Health Education campaigns are shown to be hugely effective in improving lives, can we afford to neglect them for long?

These are preventative strategies, with the bottom line being a more healthy country needing less hospital admissions and less doctors appointments. With the NHS needing to make big savings over the next few years, taking too long to establish just exactly who has responsibility and getting Health Campaigns back up and running, could make those savings all the more difficult to obtain.

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