THE BLOG

How to Solve 'the NHS Problem', Part Four

18/12/2014 09:43 GMT | Updated 16/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Everybody cares, every day

This is the last of four posts which provide a new, more creative way of funding the NHS.

So far, I have proposed:

1. That NHS services be more clearly divided into 'treatment' and 'care'

2. That NHS care services be integrated with - and managed by - the charity sector

3. Tax incentives to encourage people to contribute generously to a new National Care Service

Last time, I showed how the very rich could be incentivised by an income tax reduction to 30% subject to that sum being matched by a donation to the National Care Service (NCS). One 'reward' would be the allocation of naming rights to NCS homes, wings and wards.

Now, in this post, I will show how everybody can contribute to the NCS every day.

Let me start with an observation I made to the Department of Health several years ago:

As part of a successful professional project, I pointed out how surprising it is that, rather like the 'iron curtain' that isolated the old communist bloc, there is a 'hospital curtain' around the NHS.

What did I mean by this?

From a marketing perspective, there are two things about the NHS that make it different.

For any other business, professional marketing people can identify and profile the 'consumers' of that business. We call it the 'target audience'. When the target audience buy the product, they become 'customers'. When they become customers, we can define when and how they 'consume', the product. This helps define the marketing strategy.

The NHS is different isn't it?

The NHS does not know who is going to be sick or what treatment they will need or when they will need it. Thus, uniquely, the target audience of the NHS is 'everybody, all of the time'.

Yet, bizarrely for an organisation that employs over 1.7million people - and which all of us are likely to need at some time or another - there is remarkably little activity about the NHS outside the NHS.

To demonstrate this point to the Department of Health, I walked from Tooting Bec Underground station to St George's Hospital, not much more than a mile away. There were seventeen - yes, seventeen - NHS touch points on the way: pharmacies, opticians, GP surgeries, chiropodists etc.

But there was not one NHS sign at not one of these places. As far as the NHS is concerned, you might as well now know they are there - or that there is busy activity going on every day.

How is such an enormous organisation so invisible in the community?

Well, I expect the answer is that, because it is funded by central taxation, the NHS becomes and expectation rather than a want. And when you do not need medical treatment, you do not want to think about when you do, do you?

Let's park this thinking for a moment and talk about the National Lottery.

You may not be a Tory and you might not have voted for John Major. For me, having voted both Labour and Conservative in my time, John Major is one of the few politicians whom I am prepared to concede is 'a good bloke' with his heart in the right place.

And John Major did do one thing that has changed our lives and improved society.

He launched the National Lottery.

Since 1994, National Lottery has raised over £32billion for good causes, including £2.2billion for the Olympics. According to the Guardian - Give John Major the credit he's due - 'the National Lottery has transformed British sport'.

How can we learn from the lessons of the Lottery, and the human insights I have provided, to help us transform the 'care' (as opposed to the medical 'treatment') of our citizens?

I have touched on this before but, when I was brought up in Hong Kong, there was a national charity called the Community Chest. Everybody knew about it. Everyone bought into it.

The Community Chest was so heavily advertised I can recall the corny jingle decades later:

Give, give, give to the Community Chest

Give, give, give and they will do the rest

Give, give, give just as much as you can

Give, give, give to help your fellow man.

If you're from the East, if you're from the West,

Help your neighbours with the Community Chest.

Give, give, give to help the sick and the poor

Give, give, give and then just give some more.

Now, today, the time has come for us to launch another National Lottery, along the lines of the Community Chest, which can act as the 'central bank' for the new charity-managed National Care Service.

The National Care Lottery or, if you like, the Community Chest will be different from the National Lottery in that donations can be made straight into the fund without buying a lottery ticket including, for example, the following 'usage occasions':

- if you have been well treated by the NHS, as a gesture of thanks, you will be encouraged to make a donation into the Community Chest at collection points at every NHS touch point, including GP surgeries and on every high street.

- the charities which manage care homes and services under the NCS will be encouraged to organise local fund-raising initiatives and events.

- a Community Chest 'prompt' for every payment at every chip & pin device at every point of sale in the country (this is technologically possible, as I know from a client I have worked with in this area).

- a similarly ubiquitous online marketing campaign, especially on NHS and NCS websites.

- an advertising campaign encouraging, for every bet made between two people, the substitution of "if you do that, I'll give x pounds to charity ... " with "if you do that, I'll give x pounds to the Community Chest"?

In contrast to the hospital curtain around the NHS, and alongside the tax breaks that will be developed, this continuous and ongoing engagement with the Community Chest will be something we can all buy into, all of the time.

This is the only way we will be able to protect the 'free at the point of delivery' NHS principles.

In conclusion, I accept the insights and ideas I have put forward in my last four posts might benefit from development and refinement. But I am convinced, even as a lonely blogger, that a more professional - and more creative - approach is required to resolve the core issues facing the NHS and care in this country.

In the book 'In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government' (June 2014), the overhaul of the NHS is described as 'an unforced error of epic proportions'.

In the book 'The Blunders of Our Governments' (September 2014), the full extent of the failings in our political system is revealed.

In this lead up to the General Election, how can we allow our political parties, and inadequate career politicians, to blunder onwards as they do?

Yes, they may feel they have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion, but there are professional people in a host of professional marketing services companies who are better qualified to:

- identify the problems

- define the core issues

- understand the human dynamics

- develop original and creative solutions

There is still time for all the parties to invest in original thinking and creative advice at a more upstream level.

But not much.