HC Deb 28 June 1995 vol 262 cc687-8W
Mr. Trend

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action is being taken to improve the standard of communications in the NHS; and if she will make a statement. [31821]

Mr. Malone

The National Health Service Executive's business plan for 1995–96, copies of which are available in the Library, reflects the priority now given to improving communications in the NHS. Improved communications will assist the accountability of the NHS to those it serves. It will now also enhance responsiveness to patients and ensure that the NHS is better able to promote good health. The NHS Executive is taking action both to improve its own communications and to encourage best practice within the service.

The executive has taken steps to improve the quality of information it supplies to both the NHS and the public. The volume of publications issued is being reduced and printed communications are being targeted more precisely to ensure resources are used to best effect. Information is now supplied through:

  • regular briefings on service developments for NHS staff;
  • a guide to the NHS for the public;
  • quarterly reviews of the most up to date performance data;
  • annual reports; and
  • more clearly targeted newsletters including "NHS Magazine".

The NHS Executive has ceased production of six NHS newsletters and is seeking a more cost-effective approach. The new quarterly "NHS Magazine" replaced an old monthly publication and its production costs are met in part by advertising. The magazine is projected to cost £130,000 in its first year, against an estimated annual saving of £227,000 from discontinued publications.

The executive is working with the NHS to develop measurable standards for communication to improve the clarity and accessibility of information for the public. Such standards would ensure a consistent approach to communication throughout the NHS. It is also working on training and development packages opportunities covering NHS communications. These explain the benefits to be gained from promoting open communications with staff and include material on the importance of clear, jargon-free communication. The executive is working closely, where appropriate, with other health organisations, such as the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts, on projects to develop higher standards in NHS communications.