Giacomo Casanova is perhaps the most famous seducer in history who, it is said, lured well over 100 women into bed. Although this Italian-born libertine lived several centuries ago, his techniques of seduction could hold a valuable lesson for the NHS.

Casanova would spend inordinate time and effort in pursuit of particular women, and at the core of any successful organisation or business is the ability to seduce customers and clients. This is a metaphor that many who work in the private sector will be familiar with, as the rigours of competition mean players understand they must lure customers away from the attentions of rivals.

Following an initial encounter, it is vital to ensure that customers want to enter a long-term relationship with you. One-night stands are not what a successful business is built on in terms of customer relations. And you do not want to be sued for divorce too soon after going up the aisle with your customer.

It is said that Casanova once spent several days targeting a particular actress. The actress had a speech impediment and could not properly pronounce words that had the letter "r" in them. Casanova gave her a play he had devoted days to writing, which possessed the singular characteristic that it had no words with the letter "r".

Here is the key question that tests your seduction skills. Paying for the actress to have speech therapy or elocution lessons is much more pragmatic and helpful - yet it would have been much less seductive than the gift of this peculiar play. So why is the writing of the play and its presentation so seductive?

There are several answers to this question. One suggests that the play represents the idea that the underlying message you are sending is "you are perfect as you are - don't change a thing", while the offer of speech therapy sends the message "you are imperfect and once you change, then I can love you".

But fundamentally the play represents a core point underlying all seduction and great customer relations - it meets an unmet need.

The private sector has long understood this as the key method of survival. Hence, for example, the focus of many private hospitals on short waiting times.

The fundamental problem for the NHS is that it struggles to meet needs that are already apparent. It has little or no experience in trying to seek out unmet needs and indeed attempting to do so might seem overwhelming.

If, centuries on from Casanova, the NHS still does not understand how to find unmet needs and meet them, then we are in for a stormy relationship in the times ahead as competition enters the NHS marketplace.

Whatever you may think of Casanova, do understand this: life is at its core a seduction in more ways than one and the NHS can ill afford to continue playing the role of clumsy lover if it does not want to be stood up on its next date with the public.