I work remotely much of the time and on my lunch break yesterday I tuned into midday television. It became clear immediately which sub-demographic the broadcaster had decided to place me in. I must be unemployed because I am watching television before 5:30pm and that there can only be a handful of reasons for this:

A – I am retired, with declining health, and must be sold exorbitant life insurance.

B – I have lost my job and that must be someone else’s fault, I need to sue them.

C – I am unable to work as I was not given appropriate care when hospitalised, so I must find the party responsible and sue.

As a designer I love to watch for emerging trends in advertising. Whilst I was completely tuned out for the adverts that were targeting groups A and B, I was astonished to see that there was a large enough market to justify the broadcast of an advert target at group C-  broad-media advertising for healthcare lawsuits!

To paraphrase the advert said:
“It costs nothing for me to find out whether I’m entitled to medical compensation”
“It is quick and easy, I practically don’t have to do anything
“I am entitled to the truth about my medical care”
“Getting every penny that I deserve will put the pain of the past behind me”

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Healthcare-specialist law firms have existed for some time, but traditionally they are sought out by the affected party – if somebody feels that they have been genuinely wronged then they will look for help. However, this is different, because mainstream media is the one dangling the carrot. This is a proactive ad campaign, primed to act as an enabler for British cynicism. “My troubles can’t be my doing, but perhaps it is a caregiver’s fault this time around” – praying on people’s predisposition to look for closure through blame that something might be ‘owed to them’ by somebody who was trying their best to do a job, quite possibly saving their life. Looks like I’ve got nothing to lose by picking up the phone and finding out free-of-charge

To be clear, I am not defending the mistakes made in NHS, I am attacking advertising! If mainstream media influences people’s impression of their care, you can guarantee that new media has been on the case for a while. As I am writing this, just today, the names of seven trusts with above average death rates have been published to the public forum. But if someone were given adequate care at one of these institutions suffering from slipping standards, then turns on the TV to be informed that there could be a quick payout – surely they’d be mad to miss the opportunity? It’s not fraud if you’re entitled to it!

The problem seems to be that we are so happily led to discard logic and hand over complete responsibility to others. A prime example is the closure of NHS Direct’s ill-fated 111 services. This was a brand new form of care, and a new way to access information. Aside from the apparent poor planning, the numbers of calls received were double the expected, leading to unacceptable waiting times. Some people gladly dialed in for the most menial things as it took the pressure off them. I’m not excusing the blunders (some still under review) that arose after receiving advice from the helpline, but this was an advice line, not a full physical. From what I can ascertain, a number of these cases unraveled some time after the affected party hung up the phone and their condition changed or deteriorated.

The growing notion of blame culture is incredibly destructive and has wide implications for our health service far beyond the no win, no fee adverts we see on daytime TV. It’s pushing people to not only blame others but also encouraging them to take less responsibility for their health as a whole. In an age when the only way our health service can survive in its current guise is if we move to a more preventative method, blame culture could in fact be moving this agenda in the opposite direction.

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