Skip to NavigationSkip to content

Engaging with the NHS – through patients?

Published date: 


Traditionally NHS joint working has been about pharma and the NHS working together in a collaborative and transparent fashion. These days aligning brand positioning and strategy with QIPP seems to be the rule rather than the exception. However, has QIPP actually pushed boundaries and managed to get pharma thinking in a new way, or are pharma simply putting a slight spin on their messages to align them with QIPP for a better Return on Investment?

We are all guilty of it – ‘helping to realise efficiency gains’, ‘sharing skills’, ‘forging partnerships’ – all the key buzzwords of the NHS today. As it seems are ‘improving patient outcomes’, being ‘patient focused’ and ‘helping to redefine the patient pathway’. 

All the above statements are used to demonstrate joint working initiatives between pharma and NHS. These, we believe, can help convince the healthcare professional or payor that as commercial organisations, we actually do understand  the   problems   within   the  NHS. By undertaking joint initiatives we can help fulfil some of their objectives in line with the over-riding strategy of what they are trying to do – all within budget off course!

However, I would suggest there is a different approach we can take to joint working that will aid healthcare professionals and pharma alike, such as engaging with patients. Shared decision making is paramount in all communication with patients but the uptake on this it seems, is mixed. 

Some healthcare professionals believe they know best, some patients just want the decision to be made for them and others go prepared with reams of research asking questions that may not always be relevant about their potential medication. The balance is informed decision making between both clinician and patient. The information can come from a variety of different sources – websites, Facebook, Twitter, friends, and naturally, the clinician.

The clinician obviously will know the efficacy and safety data, the results in trials, the percentage success rate, but what else do patients want to know? What would you want to know – after  all  everyone  is at some point a patient? The ‘Facebook generation’ of 15-35 year olds (let’s be realistic about it) will ask their peers – verbally or online. Go onto twitter and type in your brand name – it is guaranteed you will see what people are saying about it. Personal experiences are always more ‘real’ – that is after all why we do case studies - but fully integrated campaigns should involve everything, maybe even including the use of patients.

So,  can  patients   add   to   your   strategy? Maybe they can’t be KOLs but they can be advocates – and extremely strong and influential ones at that. If you had to take a medication, would you not want to know what someone of the same generation thought of it? We all know that patients are well informed by the time they get to see the clinician, maybe they should be informed by you?

Patient programmes are one route, patient education is another. These are tried and tested methods and can work in a variety of different ways  for different brands and patient groups. But why don’t we think more laterally and come up with some innovative joint working initiatives? We want to engage the NHS (clinicians and even payors), so why not do that through patients.

Joint working in this fashion doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Unlike the more traditional routes, think of working parties to provide education and advocacy that links and supports your brand. An integrated campaign should have different elements to it that all tie in together as demonstrated by the diagram.

It doesn’t even have to be complicated. Brands don’t have to shout at all times, but they should work hard! And surely brand advocacy is as beneficial to ROI as how your brand looks on the page? 

Working with an agency that understands NHS engagement – through both patients and social media and through KOL working parties who can help align this positioning with your advertising and promotion - is paramount in today’s constantly evolving NHS.  Joint working is here to stay, but it doesn’t have to be the standard QIPP approach, in fact it doesn’t have to follow any standard approach, step outside the box and think a little creatively.

By Melanie Kirk - Managing Director of Pulsar Healthcare

 Melanie Kirk is Managing Director at Pulsar Healthcare and can be contacted at: or see our company profile here 

Follow us on Twitter 




Mission Statement is a leading portal for the pharmaceutical industry, providing industry professionals with pharma news, pharma events, pharma service company listings and pharma jobs,
Site content is produced by our editorial team exclusively for and our industry newspaper Pharmafocus. Service company profiles and listings are taken from our pharmaceutical industry directory, Pharmafile, and presented in a unique Find and Compare format to ensure the most relevant matches