Defining the essence of our new healthcare economy - Hospital Management

By Max du Bois

As featured in the print publication Hospital Management by Max du Bois.

Up until 1999 the National Health Service had over 600 logos all competing with each other for the public's attention. In comparison, the single NHS identity, which was created in a bid to improve recognition and accountability, was a great success.

But that was 16 years ago and much has changed since then, according to Max du Bois of Spencer du Bois who are experts in brand positioning. He says, "Our healthcare has improved and moved on, and we're now seeing a fundamental shift in the healthcare economy for which we now need a brand that works with this brave new world. We also need to go beyond a logo, to the heart of the actual brand commitment.

"This isn't about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, The NHS brand is a powerful icon for all the most positive aspects that we achieve. Just as it aggregates the positive, so it also allows the pockets of poorer care to taint the whole. With a one size fits all, it's harder to tell where the pockets of excellence are and easier for the negative to slowly erode public trust and belief.

"Part of the NHS evolution has resulted in greater choice, as choice which many, from patients to GPs, will base on league tables. Rather than simplify matters, however, this tends to confuse them further as most patients don't fully grasp the subtleties of the NHS or look at how rankings are compiled. The league table system, which only tells part of the story, has become a short hand that does not offer up the full picture, and which is often caught in the past.

Trusts need to carve out their own territory.

"As Trusts evolve, as they join together and set up specialist clinics in each other's campuses it is becoming crucial for each Trust to carve out its own territory. This is further compounded as specialism becomes increasingly valuable and care integrates with social care and embeds itself in the community.

"If Trusts don't carve out their own niche, as countless other sectors, from education to the charity sector demonstrate, they'll become faceless and generic. They will be the third or fourth choice for patients, referrals from GPs, for new staff and for additonal funding. They will dwindle as others answer the question "why choose me" more clearly and more compellingly.

"This isn't about replacing or rejecting the NHS brand, far from it. It's about building the trust and excellence it can represent and interpreting it in a way that's relevant to each Trust's ambitions.

"Neither is it about adding a few lines to the NHS logo. Faux logos are not brands, they are often pointless decoration without any substance that confuse rather than clarify.

"It's about the staff and clinicians defining how they are building on the NHS legacy for their patients and how to address the specific issues and opportunities they face.

"By involving all parties in the co-creation process, each Trust taps into its combined ambition, wisdom and passions to define what the brand is about. This empowers the stakeholder to create a brand which becomes a valubale tool in shaping the new healthcare economy."