Now that the clapping is long gone

Now that the clapping is long gone

It won’t come as a shock to anyone that NHS staff are struggling to cope at the moment, and that their mental wellbeing is at an all-time low. In fact, we’ve come to expect workers in the NHS to always be a bit stressed. Perversely, in some ways, it actually seems to add weight to their hero status in society. And obviously, the pandemic has only made things worse. But are you aware of just how bad the situation has become? At the start of this month, the Health and Social Care Committee published a report entitled ‘Workforce Burnout and Resilience in the NHS and Social Care.’ and the findings are frightening:

‘Workforce burnout…is an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future of the services’

‘92% of NHS trusts said they had concerns about staff wellbeing, stress and burnout.’

These findings are supported by the results of the 2020 National NHS staff Survey released last month which showed that:

‘44% (of NHS staff) reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months - a 6 year high’

‘Nearly 1 in 5 staff are considering quitting the NHS’

This is a dire situation. We believe that everyone working in healthcare communications has a role to play, and indeed a responsibility, in supporting those working within the NHS, and making things better. After all, this is (rather ironically) the World Health Organisation’s Year of Health and Care Workers, where we’re called to Protect. Invest. Together.

For years we’ve been saying that we want to partner with healthcare workers. Well, now it’s time for action. But before we can play our part, we have to fully understand how these individuals are feeling. Clearly, a large percentage of NHS staff are burnt out. Professor Michael West of the King’s Fund recently outlined a number of elements that make up the feeling of burnout.

1. Emotional exhaustion

2. Depersonalisation

3. Lack of personal accomplishment

And specifically, when it came to the NHS, he concluded that:

‘burnout could also be described as ‘moral distress, where the individual concerned believes that “I am not providing the quality of care that I should be providing for the people I am offering services for.”'

They are emotionally drained, feeling that they are under performing and dehumanised. Our role then, as providers of products and services to those working in the NHS is clear: In all our dealings with them, we must show compassion.

Compassion is not a word we use much these days, but the Oxford English Dictionary definition is:

‘The feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it.’

We know that healthcare businesses will be moved by what they see when supporting their NHS customers, but what’s more important is that they have a desire to relieve and help solve the issues these customers are facing. Through showing this compassion to NHS staff, healthcare businesses can help them feel more human and play a part in reminding these amazing people of the great work they do, while also supporting them to do it better.

At BBD Perfect Storm Health, we call this Rehumanising Healthcare. It’s compassion in action. We have created a simple, 5-step approach that will revolutionise your relationship with your NHS customers, transform your marketing and positively effect sales.

The 5 steps to Rehumanise:

1. See the person first - Not their specialism or level of seniority. Not just who they are at work, but the whole person. Take time to assess how they’re feeling.

2. Understand - Don’t be tempted to jump in and explain how your products or services can help. Be interested in them with no agenda other than to help where you can. Show them that you’re human too.

3. Empathise - Show that you understand their world and their situation. Give them insights from what you’ve seen elsewhere in the NHS. Show them that they are not alone in their experiences. Place yourself in their situation. Imagine how you’d feel if that was your world, and you were struggling with the issues they are. Imagine how burnout might be making them feel. Remind them of the positive impact they have on patients, other staff, relatives and carers.

4. Balance reason with emotion – Continue to use clinical evidence and data, but bring this to life with stories of the life-changing benefits that your products and services offer. Remember healthcare professionals have emotions too. Don’t shy away from the harsh reality of working in healthcare. An old, but great example of this is McCann’s work for Merck Serono’s cancer drug Erbitux.

5. Offer action to support - Only once you’ve empathised will you be in a position to offer the right action to support. Don’t crowbar what you have to offer. Be honest. If it’s not right for them, say so. It will build trust and put you in a good position for future opportunities. As you position your products and services, don’t rely purely on evidence and data, remember how they’re feeling and show the benefits available.

We’re well aware that as healthcare marketers we can’t solve all the problems faced by those working in the NHS. Huge systemic, cultural and leadership changes need to take place in order to achieve that. But we do believe that Rehumanising your communications with NHS customers and approaching them as humans in all your interactions can go a long way in helping them feel less isolated, and more like the human-centred healthcare professionals they want to be. We also believe that healthcare marketing communications that have been rehumanised have a better chance of resonating with this burnt-out audience and positioning the companies behind them as the perfect partners for the future. And let’s be honest, if we don’t do our bit to help rehumanise the NHS, then the future appears very bleak. Not only for those already feeling burnt-out, but for our entire National Health Service. We all have a part to play. Just as the NHS changes lives, let’s do all we can to better support and communicate with those working there.

For more information on how you can Rehumanise your healthcare marketing please get in touch with me at

Photo courtesy:

Vladimir Fedotov | @fedotov_vs

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