The GCIH Experience

People power – driving change in the NHS through social activism

People power – driving change in the NHS through social activism

Has there been a time since the NHS was founded in 1948 that we haven’t heard calls of ‘the NHS is in crisis!’? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it’s certainly something we hear an awful lot at the moment.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the current NHS crisis began. Perhaps it was around the time that, after years of a Labour government, the Conservatives came to power with their calls for austerity and everything seemed set to change. But if there was one event that really caught the public eye when it came to NHS cuts, it was the junior doctors’ dispute, and perhaps this has been the catalyst for the latest bout of social activism in support of the NHS.

On top of this we are living – politically speaking – in uncertain times. Over the last couple of years we’ve had a general election that didn’t go quite as people expected; controversial opposition leadership and challenges; Brexit; a new PM; and US politics making the world feel on edge. Perhaps these changes, which are no doubt making people feel uneasy, are also driving a need to hold on to what we know and what we hold dear.

And so we have a motivated public, angered by both the current state of the NHS and the threats that are being made to its future. If we combine that with a world now very accustomed to social media, where everyone can have their say and make their voice heard, we have the catalyst for activism and action.

There have been an enormous number of public petitions urging the government to do better, or differently, with regards to the NHS. Online petitions can be powerful. With 100,000 signatures, the issue can be considered for debate in the House of Commons, and regardless of whether or not they make it that far, petitions allow voices to be heard. There’s currently an ongoing petition with more than 700,000 signatures, calling for MPs to stop the NHS from being privatised and ensuring it has the funding it needs; another with more than 100,000 signatures demanding an end to pay restraints for NHS staff; and dozens of others recently closed with well over 100,000 signatures.

Are these petitions leading to change? It’s hard to tell. But there is without doubt a strong feeling of social activism geared towards supporting the NHS, of which these petitions are just one part. Last weekend more than 250,000 people marched in London to protest against NHS cuts and privatisation, in a peaceful yet impassioned plea to the government to keep the NHS afloat. It follows countless other protests and marches, and there will no doubt be many more.

What next for the NHS? Who can say? But it is certain that a motivated and passionate public, inspired by the social activism that petitions and social media afford, will continue to make themselves heard and challenge politicians who are seen to threaten the establishment that Brits hold so dear.

The UK patient impact of potential Brexit

The UK patient impact of potential Brexit

Today the UK will vote on whether to stay as part of the European Union (EU) or not. Although the political landscape may change, the numbers of patients in need of access to healthcare will not. UK patients will still require drugs and medicines produced by pharmaceutical companies, and the need to research and develop new treatments and therapies will continue to be just as important as ever, whether we remain as part of the EU or not.

There is little certainly on how a YES vote would benefit UK industry. However, from a healthcare perspective I feel it could not be clearer that a decision to leave the EU could spell bad news for UK patients. The reason fundamentally lies around the way that new treatments and medicines from abroad are granted access to UK patients.

Currently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is the regulatory body for the safety and quality of drugs in the EU and headquartered in London. The EMA has already stated that they will be forced to relocate if Britain votes to leave the EU, presenting the UK with little choice but to forge its own separate drug regulatory review department. It cannot be underestimated how much time, effort and money it would take for a newly independent UK to re-design and restructure its own drug review system, as well as negotiate its ties and position next to an EMA (in the midst of relocating its headquarters and staff to an entirely new city).

UK pharmaceutical companies, big and small, developing new therapies and pipeline drugs would suffer the brunt during this period of regulatory uncertainty, as the review of their therapies are disrupted and deprioritised. Worse still however, it will be the UK patients in need of these new treatments who will physically suffer as the unavoidable delays in regulatory review increase the time these medicines take to reach them. These regulatory delays could easily result in UK patients resorting to health tourism, choosing to leave the Britain to pay for private European healthcare. Ironic considering health tourism of the NHS has been a frequent line of argument for the Leave campaign.

To exacerbate the potential impact of Brexit on UK patients, an independent Britain could also struggle to attract phase three investigative drug trials, often new innovative oncology treatments. This is because an independent UK would no longer have the framework of the EMA behind it to distribute these pipeline investigative drugs to the relevant patient groups in need. Regardless of what the UK formulates as an alternative, the EMA will always be a more attractive prospect for international organisations to have new drugs reviewed with first, due to its vastly superior patient reach and healthcare market. Sadly, the longer it takes for new drugs to be granted access to UK patients, the higher their price become, both in financial and health of patients, placing yet further and utterly self-inflicted strain on the NHS and its patients.

Although the Leave campaign has put forward some arguments encouraging us to vote Leave, when professionally involved with UK pharma it certainly does make you question, is it worth the risk?

The importance of giving in what we do

The importance of giving in what we do

Last month, sports relief raised around £57,000,000 to help support some of the most poor and disadvantaged people around the world. Whilst reading about the successes of this year’s campaign and the latest fund raising events, I started to think about my passion for charity work, where it all began and how lucky I am to be living out my passion for charitable work here at GCI Health.

Back in 2011 I took part in a five week healthcare volunteering programme in Kenya. The programme was aimed at supporting healthcare professionals and patients at a local medical centre near Mombasa, giving me a real insight into the evolving world of healthcare across a developing country.

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Junior Doctor contracts – PR winners and losers

Junior Doctor contracts – PR winners and losers

With the junior doctors’ strike hitting the headlines for many months now, we’ve been taking a look at some of the key players and seeing who’s winning the PR battle:

Junior doctors – When the junior doctor negotiations first started out the overwhelming sentiment of both the media and the general public was of support. As time has gone on and with the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS happening over the last two days, the tide seems to slowly be turning. Statistics released by BBC News just yesterday showed that 57% of the public backed junior doctors in the fight about contracts although we’re starting to see an increased number of headlines calling for them to return to work. It seems as time is progressing, the public and media divide on this issue is only becoming wider.

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Why science students need to be better educated on career choices

Why science students need to be better educated on career choices

As a science student at university you’re expected to express a genuine understanding of real world healthcare procedures and processes. The source of this knowledge usually comes from publicly available coverage in newspapers, specialist journals or trade websites. Yet few students ponder how such news find its way to the outlets they’re an audience of.

Science students study the latest research across all manner of niche fields, while working in university laboratories and out on ecological field trips. However, it’s travelling to and from university that all students unwittingly consume so much of what they need to know via newspapers, mobiles and apps – moving about on buses, tubes and in some privileged cases via ‘Ubers’. Health Communications and PR agencies like GCI Health are the bridge between the scientific milestones that matter and the accessible stories that allow us to understand them.

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NYC to London: Embracing the Difference

NYC to London: Embracing the Difference

At GCI Health, we consistently strive to do something different, from how we approach our client work to our day-to-day lives. It is at the very heart of our agency culture. And after making the move from NYC to London in August, I can say it not only translates across the pond, but goes a step further as we truly embrace the difference.

Living as an American in London, I’ve had to adapt to doing a few things differently – looking the opposite way when crossing the street, successfully navigating the Tube, not-so-successfully understanding the various accents, etc. Not all changes stick, (sorry, still no tea for me, please!) but those that do stick can lead to interesting insights.

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The NHS post-election: The future’s bright, the future’s communications

The NHS post-election: The future’s bright, the future’s communications

For the majority of people, the results of the general election will have been a shock. Health was one of the big political battlegrounds of this general election, but now nearly 2 months on with the dust settled, what have we actually seen? Well, nothing yet bar a lot of speculation, discussions and it seems from an outsider’s perspective, heads in hands asking what we do now.

Simon Stevens’ five year forward view (5YFV) was generally met with support from both the NHS itself and the political figures surrounding it. Stevens asked for an extra £8bn by 2020 in order to make £22bn of efficiency savings. No small task to complete and the political opinion now seems to be ‘we gave you what you asked for, so go away and deliver.’

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Representing Health at Digital Shoreditch

Representing Health at Digital Shoreditch

Digital Shoreditch, a festival that celebrates the very best in creative, technical and entrepreneurial talent from across Europe, entered its fifth year last week with a series of lightening talks and workshops. It opened its doors to just about everyone from big brand names to start-ups – and we were there.

As an agency specialising in healthcare, we constantly challenge ourselves to find new and creative methods of dissecting client briefs, and Digital Shoreditch provided the perfect platform.

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The GCI Health Exchange

The GCI Health Exchange

Very recently I returned from the inaugural two-week GCIH exchange between our London office and the American HQ in the Big Apple. Landing in a country I’d visited only once before and a city I’d seen only in the movies, I was excited to meet my US colleagues (and enjoy a daily burger from the Shake Shack conveniently across from the office!).

My task in New York was a simple one: bring a little bit of London, and our European expertise, to the New York team. This was made all the easier by my colleagues, and now friends, that I met while across the Atlantic.

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