Substance over style

If you are looking for a good summary of the changes to the NHS reforms as outlined by David Cameron yesterday then the BBC Online piece is worth checking out.

To me, Cameron’s speech seemed to set out a fundamental re-balancing of the reforms to ensure they reflect a much broader set of constituency interests. Thekey announcements were those which suggest the new modus operandi of Monitor – the economic regulator – will be patient interests and the idea of clinical ‘senates.’ However, the cynical among us will surely remain unconvinced that they are anything more than a re-branding and I can see why.

For the five overall pledges set out by Cameron on the NHS are less impressive.

There is nothing wrong with them as guarantees but they are 100% ‘political’ rather than ‘practical’ It will be hard to ever prove conclusively that the Government has failed to meet them in the coming years. And they provide no real benchmark by which to measure the impact of policies to come.

Whatever your view, let’s just say that the Prime Minister successfully found safe harbour yesterday. But at some point the flotilla of reforms must leave port again and demonstrate that they can float on the sea of public opinion. So I expect all Government hands will be on deck next week when they set sail, to not only convince us this is the case, but to also convince critics that the Coalition has settled its differences on the design of this flagship policy…..

Re-branding is much in my mind for all sorts of reasons right now. A good colleague of mine who I bumped into at last night’s Wellcome Trust 75th anniversary dinner even suggested that, now I am now no longer ‘mainstream,’ I might need to do a makeover on myself. That £70 facial at Shoreditch Cowshed on Sunday morning was clearly a waste of time and money then?

And then I recalled a half-hour encounter with the advertising guru Wally Ollins many years ago in which he dressed me down on the fine art of re-branding and what it actually means – substance over style.

Indeed it was fascinating to see the approach of different research charities to re-branding in my last year at AMRC and the trends that were emerging – the concern to own not just a disease name but also the ‘UK’ badge. For instance, if you know your stuff, you’ll know that there are three ‘ARUK’s’ wandering across the medical research charity landscape alone because of this. Thankfully most have done so with good cause and reason – and that’s all we ask for, substance over style.

And that’s all we’ll be looking for from the Government next week.

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