NHS battleground

13/09/2016 - 07:58
Once again the NHS has been used as a political football. Gail Walker of Open Door PR considers the persuasive power of the third rail of politics.

No matter which way you voted, the Brexit result was a shock to everyone. An expected home run for the government and remain campaign turned into a surprise win for leave. The government, fresh from a win in the Scottish referendum, with strong data, money, influential backers and a persuasive economic argument still could not influence enough voters.

How could such experienced communicators, pollsters and strategists get it so wrong?

We’ve spoken before about the power of emotion and its ability to secure loyalty, engagement, trust and, as seen here, pick a winner.

We know that emotions can be far stronger in decision-making than reasoning. Yes, it could be argued that the leave campaign ran a multifaceted campaign that was hard-hitting, and reached out to a wide range of voting groups, but ultimately the leave campaign was run on passion. And the British people responded.

It was economy versus migration, and head versus heart, with our beloved NHS being manipulated as the usual political pawn in the middle.

As caterers or manufacturers, you understand the emotional engagement needed to provide food that is not just nutritious but also engages emotionally by looking and tasting good.

So what of the NHS now? Staff moral must be at an all-time low and the need to motivate essential. A daily changing landscape makes long-term planning difficult; among others, two immediate concerns for the NHS are price inflation and labour issues.

Inflation looks to be inevitable on imported goods. Whether this is long or short term is yet to be seen. Due to falling exchange rates, many food importers without fixed price contracts have already had to raise prices and will pass this cost on.

With an estimated 40% of food consumed sourced outside of the UK, foodservice caterers and manufactures will need to be innovative to prevent budgets spiralling, and work with suppliers to mitigate impact on the quality of their menu.

As to labour, the NHS is already under staffed and struggling to recruit and retain qualified professionals. The impact of Brexit on free movement and labour bears heavily on the NHS, which currently employs 130,000 EU workers.

Of the NHS’s 1.3 million workforce, 55,000 of these EU workers work in the NHS and 80,000 in the adult social care sector. Chief executive for NHS England, Simon Stevens, recognises that the NHS has benefitted ‘enormously’ from these doctors, nurses and care workers, which make up 10% of all NHS doctors and 5% of its nursing staff.

Against this national backdrop of uncertainty, the NHS staff and associations such as the HCA once again take to the battleground to defend and ensure the longevity of the NHS.

Ultimately, they are now responsible for successfully connecting, communicating and implementing these changes to safeguard its future.

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