“Northern Powerhouse” isn’t just a Mancunian matter

By Hugo Greenhalgh on June 3, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments

“To bring different parts of our country together, my government will work to bring about a balanced economic recovery. Legislation will be introduced to provide for the devolution of powers to cities with elected metro mayors, helping to build a northern powerhouse.” – The Queen’s Speech, 27 May 2015.

The Queen’s Speech last week reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to creating a “northern powerhouse”. This term was first used by George Osborne in a speech in June 2014 and denotes the urban agglomeration of England’s Northern cities into a collective force, capable of rivaling the economic power of London. At the centre of these plans is the High Speed 3 (HS3) rail network, connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Hull and Newcastle.

While HS3 is unlikely to become a reality until the 2020s, a number of policies generally indicate that Westminster views Manchester as the flag-bearer for the rest of ‘the North’. It is already poised to take control of a devolved health and social care budget worth £6bn and will be the blueprint for other cities in Osborne’s ‘metro mayors’ proposals. Today, a £1 billion programme to transform Manchester Airport was unveiled, highlighting the global outlook of England’s de facto northern ‘capital’. Read more …

‘Mad Men’ and how to change the conversation

By Carl Packman on May 26, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments

I make no apologies for wanting to write about Mad Men now that it is finished on Sky Atlantic. While I must admit I dipped in and out of the programme, filling in the gaps through many conversations with friends and the odd long form article on the programme, I recognised straight away what a formidable show it was and how good it was at raising questions that we ourselves should be asking today.

Questions such as: what is the point of advertising?

The programme only actually raised this question quite rarely. The main focus was on nostalgia for the 50s, 60s and 70s in the US, plus references to defining political events such as Vietnam and the murder of JFK, not to mention the topsy-turvy world of workplace power struggles, identity crisis, and household morals. But when the question did come up, especially from the central character Don Draper, it couldn’t have been clearer:

“Advertising is based on one thing, and you know what that one thing is? Happiness. Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK.” Read more …

Can the NHS learn the lessons from Sir Robert Francis’ inquiries?

By Hugo Greenhalgh on May 19, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

The latest HealthChat event welcomed Sir Robert Francis QC, a name which has “redefined the future of healthcare”, as host Roy Lilley eulogised. Throughout his career, Sir Robert has dealt with cases of mismanagement in healthcare and striven for further review and reform.

In a packed King’s Fund lecture room, Sir Robert reflected on his early career and the significance of cases such as that of gynaecologist Richard Neale, the Alder Hey organ scandal and the Bristol heart surgery inquiry. These cases gave Sir Robert his first major insights into the NHS but he also noted the difficulties he experienced in finding doctors to come forward as expert witnesses, for fear of being ostracised from the health profession.

Lilley then guided the discussion onto Sir Robert’s most famous work, his inquiry into the shocking mistreatment of patients – which led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths – at Stafford Hospital, better known by the now infamous shorthand of ‘Mid Staffs’, after the trust which governed the hospital at the time. Read more …

Appointment of new Sports Minister marks refreshing change

By Hugo Greenhalgh on May 13, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments

There were some wry smiles around Westminster this week as Tracey Crouch was announced as the new Sports Minister. For once, here was a Sports Minister who actually likes sport.

Crouch is an FA-qualified coach and a self-confessed football lover. She has coached the same Under-10s girls’ team in Kent for nearly a decade and has experience sitting on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

Elected as an MP in 2010, her record in Parliament has been seen as rebellious, choosing to vote on her principles rather than toeing the party line. Therefore, her ministerial appointment represents both an olive branch from David Cameron and an affirmation of her capability for the role. Read more …

The Election has been won – what now for the NHS?

By Hugo Greenhalgh on May 8, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments

With talk of a hung parliament or Labour/SNP coalition already today’s chip paper, the reality of a Conservative majority is just beginning to set in. Labour’s anticipated gains did not come through, while high-profile figures were ousted. And would the last MP left in the Lib Dems please switch off the lights?

For the healthcare community, attention will quickly turn to what the new government will mean for the sector. This was supposed to be the election of the NHS, with the final IPSOS MORI poll ranking the health service as the main concern among potential voters. It was a stark contrast from 2010 in which the economy was the clear priority.

Yet it was the Labour Party who ran with the NHS as one of their main manifesto themes but ultimately came a cropper. In their own words, the NHS was “one of Labour’s proudest achievements” and the Party rhetoric put itself forward as the only capable of “rescuing” it. Read more …

The power of celebrity endorsements

By Carl Packman on May 6, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments

Celebrity endorsements are the talk of the election. Forget normal people for a second, what gives political parties real colour and the ability to reach wider channels are the famous guys.

But do they work? In 1996, Mark N. Hertzendorf put celebrity endorsements to the test using ‘Game Theory’, in a paper written for the Federal Trade Commission (!), and what he found was rather interesting.

It had previously been the view that the most sensible way of spending money on advertising was by getting lots and lots of adverts out in public to ensure that it would be seen by the greatest number of people. But according to Hertzendorf this isn’t so sensible after all. Read more …

Conservatives’ small businesses letter is another example of bad political PR

By Hugo Greenhalgh on April 28, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

With Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna showing support for the nation’s small businesses last week, it was over to the Conservatives to respond. This came in the form of a 5,000-signature strong letter of endorsement from a wide range of the UK’s small businesses and was published as an exclusive  in The Daily Telegraph.

However, while this could have been a real statement of backing for the Tories it has already turned into a PR nightmare. The observant quickly noticed that if you downloaded the letter as a PDF from the Telegraph website, the file’s author was “CCHQ-Admin” – Conservative Campaign Headquarters. So rather than a product of the small business’ initiative, the letter was actually a creation of the Conservative electioneering machine.

Furthermore, the Tories had in fact been collecting small business signatures for the past couple of weeks based on a petition that Baroness Karren Brady – a Conservative life peer – had helped to publicize. Overnight it had become clear that this was anything but an independent document and very much a piece of Party spin. Read more …

How are political parties promising to take healthcare into the 21st century?

By Carl Packman on April 23, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

Sometimes what isn’t said is as important as what is. Many of us political geeks have had time to absorb the messages contained in the party manifestos and we know that in order to really get an idea of what’s being said, we must do more than just read between the lines.

Back in 2002 the NHS was gifted the National Programme for IT, launched and deployed in order to revolutionise the way in which the health system used information technology. The ambition for it was impressive – with costs to match.

According to the National Audit Office the estimated total cost of the NPfIT has changed since a 2011 report from £11.4bn to £9.8bn which took into account the number of system implementations. Some have called it a vanity project; what has resulted is big IT projects are a political no-go area, but haven’t necessarily resulted in a start-up revolution in digital contracts within the NHS. Read more …

The language of the manifesto is key to political PR

By Hugo Greenhalgh on April 16, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments

With three weeks to go till the 2015 General Election, the launch of manifestos allows for some reflection on how far the parties will prioritise the NHS.

It has been portrayed as one of the major issues in this election for some time now, with the key players keen to stress their commitment to the NHS and present themselves as the most capable of handling the UK’s healthcare system.

The Labour Party gave their health manifesto a special launch on Saturday, a clear statement of how highly it ranks in Labour’s priorities and an opportunity to air some of their flagship health policies. Read more …

Do philanthropists need to improve their PR?

By Hugo Greenhalgh on April 2, 2015 | Category: Blog | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments

Should philanthropists be allowed to support development however they see fit, or should their altruism be under greater scrutiny?

That was the central theme of a panel discussion at UCL on Monday evening.

The event focused on the ethics of global philanthropy and saw Clare Matterson, Director of Strategy at the Wellcome Trust and Andre Heller Perache of Medicins sans Frontiers (MSF) engage in a lively debate with Professor Rob Reich, Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a leading authority in the field. Read more …