Why brand perception is important – especially for the NHS

Satisfaction with the NHS has fallen from 70% in 2010 to 58%, according to the think tank The King’s Fund, which surveyed 3,300 people last year and released its figures this week.

Lucy Handley

Yet the government’s own statistics from last month show that 70% are satisfied with it – contradicting the think tank’s results.

So why the disparity in figures? Health minister Simon Burns says that the government stats are from people who have actually used the NHS recently, but The King’s Fund’s numbers are the attitudes of members of the public in general.

This might suggest that the perception of the NHS by the general public is falling, perhaps due to the ongoing reform and mixed press reports of late. Whereas those who have recently had direct experience of the NHS are more positive. But is this cause for concern for the health body?

You could say that it is better for perception to be poorer than the reality, as those people with lower expectations might be pleasantly surprised when they actually use a service. Government statistics show that satisfaction is the same as it was in 2010.

Or it you might argue that a brand’s positive perception will actually lift how people think they experience a product. Virgin Mobile, for example, is run by the operator T Mobile, but in a survey a few years ago, Virgin had the better customer satisfaction – proof of what good branding can do.

The percentage of people who state that they are dissatisfied with the NHS is going up in both studies. The King’s Fund says this has gone up from 18% to 24%, and the government stats – by Ipsos MORI – have gone up from 14% to 17%.

GPs do better than the NHS in general in both studies, with 83% of people being satisfied after their last visit, according to the government. So perhaps brand NHS is in need of a revamp, some positive PR or good marketing to up its perception.

I don’t think that Virgin-style marketing is going to help, but once perception improves, so might the general public’s experience of the NHS.

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