The age of responsibility

Monday, November 18, 2019 |
Chloé Fox joins as Client services director

After almost eight years in healthcare communications, I had started to become frustrated at the lack of real change the work I was doing was having. It’s not that the work was bad, in fact it was the opposite, but for the most part, it wasn’t reaching the right people or spreading across the health system.

Something had to change, but I didn’t know what. Serendipitously, as I pondered what my next move might be, I was in a conversation with Neil, my former boss and now co-founder of As he explained the plans to tackle the problem of getting evidenced good ideas to spread in the NHS, my interest was immediately piqued.

Maybe I am a product of my generation, but I felt a drive to find a career that has purpose and makes a real difference to people’s lives. I am sure many can relate to brilliant projects they have worked on in both the commercial and public sector worlds that have failed to go beyond a small group of individuals. I recall a ground-breaking programme I helped develop to educate patients on a chronic disease. The project was rigorously developed as a partnership between a pharmaceutical company, the NHS, and an academic institution and was successfully piloted. It was ready to go, but with nowhere for these learnings to be shared, there was little chance of them spreading.

This is just one example of many, which is why I am passionate and excited to be part of a movement to change this.

Similarly, while on the whole I have worked with companies and people that act with integrity and respect, we can’t deny the inherent scepticism that exists towards business, and especially the pharmaceutical industry.

It’s important for us at BOB to only work with responsible NHS suppliers, but what does responsible mean?

At its core, for, is an NHS supplier that can demonstrate the optimal use of their innovation (a piece of medtech, a service, or a medicine) in a local setting. Optimal use meaning that it brings maximum benefit to patients and value to the NHS, who has paid for it. A responsible NHS supplier will have measured this, looked at the outcomes, and learnt from them. We also believe that if an NHS supplier knows of an optimal use in the system that it is responsible for them to profile this – share it across the system, so that others can learn to bring that maximum benefit to patients.

To unpack this a little further, here are my five thoughts on what other attributes makes a ‘responsible’ NHS supplier:
  • People before profits: Sounds idealistic I know, but as George Merck, the president of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co (1925 to 1950) said: “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.” Responsible NHS suppliers develop products that can make actual changes to people’s lives knowing that if they do this the profits will follow. Importantly, NHS suppliers should ensure that their innovation is affordable, so that patients actually get access to them.
  • Sharing is caring: Done something good, bad or indifferent? Share it – simples! I don’t just mean shouting about the good stuff, that’s easy, if we only talked about our successes then how would we learn how to make things better? In the words of Elizabeth Day, we want to know “How to Fail” as well as how to succeed. Responsible NHS suppliers are willing to share the stories of what didn’t work quite so well as well as telling the good bits. This leads nicely on to my next point…
  • Transparency: Law changes have vastly improved the levels of transparency around clinical trial data sharing, as well as payments to healthcare professionals. Responsible NHS suppliers go beyond the bare minimum and openly communicate about what they’re working on, who they’re working with, what the outcomes are, and the money involved
  • Collaborating: When I say collaborating, I mean truly working with different organisations in an open way to achieve a mutually beneficial goal. It could be through Joint Working projects or partnerships with patient organisations. Responsible NHS suppliers are doing some great work in this space (see these reports from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and National Voices)
  • Perspective: It’s easy to sit at work, sipping on a macchiato making postulations about what is needed to help a person living with a chronic condition, or what might engage a healthcare professional in your product, but that’s only one side of the story. Having perspective helps us to realise and understand that this is only one side of the story. Dr Patel might think an innovation is brilliant, but at the same time she’s just worked a 70-hour week trying to keep the hospital out of special measures. Responsible NHS suppliers recognise they’re only one piece of the puzzle and seek out ways to really understand the context of people’s lives to make good decisions on how to support them
I know that from time-to-time we hear stories of irresponsible businesses screwing up, this sadly happens in all walks of life, including the public sector where things can go wrong. But let’s focus on the positives – which far outweigh the horror stories. I know there are so many brilliant stories from responsible NHS suppliers waiting to be unlocked. That’s why I am so excited to be a part of This doesn’t just feel like a new chapter for me, this is the start of a shift in the whole way in which industry and the NHS work together to bring about meaningful changes that benefit patients and the health system.

Read more about how we work with NHS suppliers to ultimately create a benefit for patients

1 comment

  1. Really insightful, Chloé. Totally agree!