Dear politician, is the election any more important than the NHS?

Politicians are eager to communicate with you now, especially on issues like the NHS. But will they ensure important communication channels stay open after you visit the polling station.

Once every four or five years I actually hear from my MP. A generic letter or leaflet arrives in the post. It’s a story that I’m sure sounds familiar to many. Election time means that communication suddenly counts.

Your letterbox is being filled with leaflets of all colours, televised political debates are rife. Newspapers, radio programmes, social networks and virtually any channel imaginable are being filled with voices from almost every party, eager to convince you and win your vote.

The polling stations are set to open in less than a week and unsurprisingly politicians want to talk to you. They want to tell you how they will make a better Britain, how they will ensure your prosperity, run your public services more effectively, and ensure the survival of national treasures like the NHS.

Eager as politicians are to emerge from the woodwork and bombard your doorstep with promises and policies, will they continue to communicate with you after you have marked your X in a box?

The aforementioned NHS has certainly been a key campaigning point, with questions being raised around issues like funding gaps and integration of health and social care.

A lot of unanswered questions remain, but whichever party or parties sit around the Cabinet table after 7th May, one thing is certain: There will be significant change in the way our health and care services are run in the following months and years. Communicating that change will be vital.

Even if the current policies continue unchanged after the election, the Five Year Forward View is placing health on social care on a major period of change, with vanguard sites and pioneering new models of care already beginning to gain momentum. As Martin Routledge, director of the Coalition for Collaborative Care outlined in a blog only this week, sharing what is happening with such sites is one fundamental purpose of the vanguards.

Whichever government comes to power, patients are being expected to play a greater role in their own care, and major challenges are faced in the shift to wellness models. Transforming services so that they are more focussed around the needs of patients and to create billions of pounds of efficiencies will be high on the agenda.

People at all levels of the health service, including patients, are facing unprecedented change. With that comes the responsibility from leaders to ensure that change is understood as it happens, so that it can happen effectively, with buy-in and with critique.

Major failings that have happened in health in the past, whether directly in care, or in areas like the multi-billion pound NHS IT programmes, have been at least partly blamed on a lack of effective engagement. Put simply, health and care is now more than ever a two-way thing in which communication will be essential, rather than a top-down approach.

The next government has no excuse. Politicians can take the time, effort and expense of communicating with you when it comes to wanting your vote. So if the NHS really is as important as the election, they must ensure that important multi-directional, multi-channel communication continues well after the election, to make sure change happens for the right reasons and in the right ways.

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