Speaking at a meeting of the Health Committee today (25 February), public health minster Gillian Merron says campaigns will not be cut to find the £50m needed to help pay for free personal care at home.
Instead, she adds, savings will be made through measures including “better priced” advertising deals and “better use of in-house communication skills”.
“It’s about reducing costs through how we do things not about cutting spending,” she says, adding “we won’t be compromising our approach as our public health campaigns are hugely important to us”.
The DoH recently announced a review of all social marketing across the NHS and the Department to ensure campaigns have the “maximum impact in helping people to change their behaviour” and that that they provide “even better value for money.and are more cost efficient”.
Clara Swinson, deputy director for obesity policy at the Department of Health told the Committee that the department’s Change4Life initiative has reduced costs by improved targeting and greater use of cheaper digital channels. She adds it has also handed direct marketing materials out at schools rather than via more expensive mass mailings.
The Committee also questioned Merron about the effectiveness of the Department’s alcohol campaigns such as the recently launched “hidden dangers” activity.
Committee chairman Kevin Barron, says the DoH is at a “complete disadvantage” when trying to tackle alcohol misuse because of the difference in marketing investment between the two, up to £800m spent by drinks makers compared with the £17.6m the Department’s spent on campaigns, he says.
Merron argues that the two parties have contrasting priorities with the industry’s objective being brand switching, while the Department’s concern “is not about what we spend but about changes we see in people’s behaviour”.
The Health Committee published its report into alcohol misuse in January, calling for an overhaul of advertising regulations and a minimum price per unit of alcohol.