The NHS has come under fire for hiring a branding agency to help ‘cultivate the right personality’ and ‘rebuild lost trust’ amid record waits for care.
NHS England engaged the firm to advise bosses on how to improve its image and credibility after lurching from one crisis to another.
It comes as the health service is struggling to tackle waiting lists of 7.2 million, which soared when the pandemic postponed operations.
Leaders have also claimed they cannot afford to offer striking nurses and paramedics pay rises without cutting services, while creating hundreds of ‘woke’ roles.
The NHS has not revealed how much it is paying the branding consultants but experts said large organisations could be charged millions of pounds.
MPs and campaigners last night accused the NHS of ‘frittering away cash’ on ‘marketing madness’ instead of focusing on improving access to doctors.
Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, which campaigns for elderly Britons, said: ‘Branding and image-shaping may sell soap powder but only good quality and timely health care can improve the standing of the NHS.
‘Wasting taxpayers’ money on this sort of marketing madness will infuriate the millions of older people waiting in pain for hip and knee operations.
‘It’s high time the marketing graduates and highly paid executives who hold so much sway in NHS England listened to frontline health workers about how this money could be better invested.
‘Confidence in the NHS is going down because waiting lists are rising, staff morale plunging and there is no long-term recovery plan.’
Patient satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level in a quarter of a century, a damning survey revealed last year.
Just 36 per cent of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey said they were satisfied with the health service, with the approval rating down by a third since 2020 and at its lowest since 1997.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has since warned that up to 500 people a week are dying due to ambulance and treatment delays.
Branding and digital design agency Thompson has made a number of recommendations following a series of interviews with NHS England bosses during the final three months of last year.