The NHS can be treated unfairly by the press, but there are plenty of areas the service can improve to repair public perceptions

Sir David Nicholson’s plans after he leaves NHS England include applying to be a non-executive director of the proposed new press regulator. He was on the receiving end of a sustained attack in the aftermath of the Francis report, but says he is not motivated by this but by a desire to protect confidence in the NHS and public services.


‘The departure of NHS England’s HR director Jo-Anne Wass on a two year “secondment” is a case study in PR pitfalls’

Ipsos Mori polling shows the significant pride the public has in the NHS, with seven in 10 thinking it is among the best health services in the world. Yet sections of the public simultaneously believe reform is necessary, but resist change – even at Stafford Hospital.

Media and political interest undoubtedly leads and shapes public opinion, and can be unhelpful for health leaders. But all parts of the NHS could do more.

This week we learned that there are 75 types of organisation taking health and social care complaints. Which? has launched a service to help people navigate the social care “maze”. And the opportunity offered by the NHS constitution remains untapped.

The perceived approach to public consultations (too many, with little evidence of feedback influencing decisions) and the communications debacle around appear aloof and arrogant.

Meanwhile, the departure of NHS England’s HR director Jo-Anne Wass on a two year “secondment” is a case study in PR pitfalls. It took NHS England over a week to answer questions about paying her salary in lieu of redundancy. The impact on trust and confidence should not be underestimated.

The solution to the NHS’s public perception woes must start at home.