Bad press in the NHS – what are we achieving?

When I first started at Highland Marketing, my only experience of the NHS was my own personal one from my childhood. I was born with a congenital condition which resulted in a severe curvature of the spine. I grew up, in and out of hospital so often that it became like a second home to me.

Recently it seems that every day there is yet another horror story regarding failings within the NHS. To me this is worlds apart from any experience that I have ever had. Throughout numerous operations and long stays in hospital, I have never had a bad experience! This got me thinking, why do we always concentrate on the negative stories and disregard the positive and what possible benefit can this have?

According to research carried out by Professor Colin Pritchard, health academic at Bournemouth University, the NHS helped achieve the biggest drop in cancer deaths and the most efficient use of resources among 10 countries including USA. On an international scale, the NHS is performing better and cheaper than most other health services in the world. The research also showed that the NHS is vastly superior to the private healthcare system of the USA. With results like these, why are we not hearing more of the positive outcomes within the NHS?

The constant criticism is running down morale within the service, ignoring all of the good work that is carried out daily by the vast majority of employees. Of course improvements can be made, but for the most part, at a time when it is under intense financial pressure, the NHS delivers value for money and care that is safe and effective.

If I, a previous long-term patient of the NHS, was getting defensive about our healthcare system, what must it be like for nurses, GPs, surgeons and other healthcare professionals to hear the unrelenting bad press? GPs have 300 million consultations a year; can they really be expected to get every single one right?

I recently read the story of student nurse Molly Case who is studying at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in London. She describes how she became frightened by the continued bad press surrounding the NHS and decided to take a stand at the RCN annual congress to defend the nursing profession. Case read out a poem she had written in response to the constant criticism entitled ‘Nursing the Nation’. This poem really touched me and describes all the hard work that is put into the NHS behind the scenes. Case received a standing ovation at the conference which shows that I am not alone in relating to her poem.

Why are stories like this not publicised more widely? I decided to have a look at NHS trust websites such as Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust and found pages dedicated to letters of praise from patients. These patients, like me, had a wonderful and caring experience whilst in hospital. It is sad that these glowing reports and letters from patients are not given the same column space as the negative press. In addition, perhaps if more of the positive news was publicised, organisations would learn more from one another and be able to replicate the success, further preventing failures from happening.

Whilst negative stories sell, and horror stories within the NHS make the front pages, I can’t help but think that perhaps the government may be happier with this negative press as it can be used to justify the controversial shake up of our beloved health service.

I for one would love to read a story on the front page of our newspapers that stands behind the NHS and proudly praises all of the hard work and dedication that is displayed on a daily basis. It is time to champion our NHS and refrain from constantly berating it! If it weren’t for the NHS, I may not have been here today.

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