We don’t need marketing, do we?

I recently attended a workshop about marketing health services, given mainly to employees of the NHS (National Health Service) itself. The workshop was given by Dr Sarah Chilvers (a Middlesex alumni) of ChilversMcCrea, a provider or “private” primary healthcare to the NHS, with 27 surgeries across the UK.

The session started off with a question about what participants felt about marketing. It was interesting so see just how much confusion there was about marketing – and especially how some people who really cared a lot about providing quality services to their patients did not see this as related to marketing. In fact, most participants seemed to think that marketing was only concerned with “selling something” (more often than not something that nobody needs anyway). And selling something was something that people do for profit – again something that had nothing directly to do with the service provided by the health service.

Of course, such a definition in the view of most people in the room was not applicable to a health service – which is free at the point of use and is not trying to sell anything, but focuses on providing services.
However, during the cause of the afternoon Sarah managed to turn initial antagonism into appreciation towards the role marketing can play in the health service: especially the role it can play to help patients access the service more efficiently, and the how marketing can help with expectations management were extensively discussed.

Unfortunately, the discussion did only touch loosely on social marketing and health promotion, but the afternoon certainly showed the important role marketeers can play when we work together with people in the health service and use our skills to overcome real life problems faced by them. And, of course, we also need to work and clear up the miss-understanding that we marketeers are only about selling something, as somehow I doubt that it is something that only people in the health service think.

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