Friday, December 15, 2006


As always, "administration" (the bureaucracy) comes first in a call on funds

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money is being spent on 'managing' the NHS logo despite the cash crisis gripping the Health Service. Official figures reveal that the bill for protecting and promoting the 'NHS identity' has more than doubled in the last four years - reaching almost 334,000 pounds last year. The money would have paid for 75 extra hip replacements - or the salaries of 15 nurses.

Instead, a special website has been set up setting out the 'core identity guidelines' on use of the NHS logo - three simple white letters set against a blue background. It advises hospitals and other NHS bodies to ensure it is printed in 'NHS Blue - Pantone 300' and 'always positioned in the top right corner' of stationery. The NHS 'official typeface' - called Frutiger - should always be used where possible, it insists, while a strict 'exclusion zone' should be observed around the edge of the logo. An NHS 'branding team' is on hand to offer advice, and an NHS 'identity helpline' has been set up.

Health Minister Ivan Lewis revealed in a written Parliamentary answer yesterday the total cost of the project since the NHS logo was developed and introduced in 1999. In 2001-02, it was 179,807, but by last year it had risen to 333,996, he revealed.

The Tories said the rising bill was extraordinary given the financial pressures facing NHS trusts across the country, which have let to job cuts and closures. Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, whose questions uncovered the figures, said: "While the NHS brand is important and has value the last thing it needs is over 300,000 to be spent on it. "The NHS needs every penny it has to spend on patient care. "I have asked the Government to explain why - like many things in the central administration of the NHS - spending has more than doubled.'

The NHS branding website insists the organisation's identity is 'important'. It adds: "It is largely formed by what we do - treating illness and promoting health. As the NHS is changing, it is vitally important to use our identity consistently and correctly. "We need to help the public and patients navigate a more diverse healthcare system, whilst maintaining their confidence that NHS values and quality will still be observed." The NHS logo has a '90 per cent spontaneous recognition rate' among the public, it adds - suggesting money has been spent on surveys to test reactions to the branding.

In the past, different NHS organisations had around 600 logos. The Health Department believes many patients were confused by some of the individual logos and could not tell if hospitals were part of the NHS. Only hospitals with a logo that pre-dated the foundation of the Health Service in 1948 were allowed to retain their brand. The department insists that 'millions of pounds' have been saved by the single branding system for letterheads, signs, uniforms and offices. A Health Department spokesman insisted: "This is not a waste of money. "The spending on the logo safeguards one of the world's most recognised and trusted brands, and stops people not allowed to use the NHS logo from using it, therefore protecting patients from organisations who may fraudulently purport to provide NHS care."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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