Talk from the top

In a week that most of the internet seemed to talking about THAT Tony Blair Christmas card, my mind went back to a time when the young pretender was the hottest ticket in town.

My own Blair experience was bookmarked first as a journalist in London in the early days of his second term as PM, and then as a PR back in Gateshead as his era limped to a close.

Whatever you think of his politics, legacy or extremely frightening smile he was, on both occasions, one of the best public speakers – and by definition communicators – that I’ve seen up close.

The master of the message, he knew exactly what he wanted to say, how he would say it while remaining interesting and affable with it. The reason I say all this is because I was reminded of that ease of engagement and communication at an event last month.

While I make no personal comparison – that would instantly damn anyone with something fairly toxic – Simon Stevens, the relatively new chief executive of NHS England, also has a marked ability to connect and communicate with an audience.

He recently took the time to speak to a group of comms people from the NHS and even brought an uber-impressive sidekick as part of young persons takeover day.

While probably preaching to the converted he said the work that comms does is central to the improvements required by the NHS and in creating a sustainable healthcare system in the future.

As a relative newcomer to the NHS his five year forward view makes essential reading for anyone interested in healthcare and particularly those who work in the system.

He talked about the huge pressures facing the NHS and explained how sound, positive communications with patients could play a major role in supporting the frontline.

The reality is that most healthcare is local and comms/PR has a vital role in these conversations and engagement with patients.

The message was clear and it was a positive note from the very top about the importance and contribution that communicators can make to the NHS.

He said that comms was no longer a nice-to-have, but now something far more vital as a sort of transformational change agent that could act as the ‘outside voice’ on the inside of the NHS.

He also left us with a poignant mantra:

Think like a patient and act like a taxpayer.

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