A healthy reputation

Reputations are fragile and easily dashed. All the more so in the age of social media.

Consider also the lie of the land: in England at least, NHS Trusts have been defined, encouraged, enabled, to stand alone as entities with their own ‘brand’ to pitch, acting as if neighbouring trusts were direct competitors, and with funding structures and national policies to encourage that further, belying the sturdy foundations of the national health service. All for one and one for all, though never directly applicable to hospitals, has never been more difficult to translate. Complex, multi-disciplinary care demands high levels of cooperation if it is to be at its best. Here, then, is a contradiction at the heart of our NHS as it is now. Hospitals place their own reputations as paramount, often, according to the NHS’s own ombudsman Rob Behrens, in a damning insight to the current culture which prevails in far too many of them. This is accompanied, far too often, with brutal bullying of whistleblowers, near-sociopathic denial of evidence or even, according to the Ombudsman, outright criminal deception.

We have long campaigned for the NHS’s founding principles to be the only guiding compass of our national health service; indeed, we were founded primarily for that purpose, almost 50 years ago. Now,  at a time when the NHS faces commercialisation often under the guise of the NHS logo itself, and has been under-resourced for years even before the pandemic, the need for openness and clarity has never been greater. And the temptations to avoid them never stronger.

The answers lie with the NHS. It already knows them. When the people who work in the NHS can work well together, they can achieve almost anything: witness how the NHS fared, despite its many handicaps and a woeful lack of investment and planning on the part of the government, during the pandemic. But that means changing the way ‘people do things’; it means a change of a culture which is now far too vilifying, and at the same time far too keen on enforced silence, to one where mistakes are owned up to and learned from.

A golden principle of ethical PR (and yes, there is such a thing) is that telling truth to power and openness are the best way of gaining and keeping a reputation, on a par with goods and services that are of the quality people expect. And where that is not true, saying so and learning from it. It would stand the NHS in good stead if those intent on preserving a reputation by sacrificing the truth were themselves to be silenced, and the light let in, by a change in attitude profound enough to shift the culture: ‘we don’t do that here’. The answer lies with the NHS – the help it needs to say it should be a priority for any political party in power.

One Response to A healthy reputation

  1. Michael Galvin 26 March, 2024 at 3:06 pm #

    A succinct and disturbing overview of the ills blighting and undermining our NHS and manifest in the:

    “brutal bullying of whistleblowers, near-sociopathic denial of evidence or even, according to the Ombudsman, outright criminal deception.”

    The ‘ethos’ prevailing in this neo-liberal era has spilled over into our NHS: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0095399713485001

    Could the erosion of grassroots democracy in the workplace account for both the increasing need for whistleblowers and for the disgraceful and shocking treatment they receive?

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