Oli Hudson, Content Director at Wilmington Healthcare, talks about the impact of coronavirus on NHS customer engagement.
As the first wave of COVID-19 subsides in the UK, pharma has a unique opportunity to transform its relationship with the NHS and realise the true potential of partnership working – that was the overriding message of a recent Wilmington Healthcare webinar which explored the impact of coronavirus on customer engagement.
However, Leslie Galloway, Chair of the Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG) and guest speaker, warned that pharma must tread carefully post-pandemic as NHS customers have been “through the mill” and “may not be in a great place”.
“Industry should be mindful that the NHS’ original objectives of reducing demand, improving outcomes and patient safety must still be achieved”
Speaking at the webinar Impact, engagement, potential: a COVID-19 return to work guide for industry, he said: “Our customers have been looking after us for many years. How can we now look after them and change the relationship permanently?”
To capitalise on the opportunity to transform its relationship with the NHS, Leslie explained that pharma must understand the challenges the NHS faces post-pandemic and help to find solutions.
Industry should also be mindful that the NHS’ original objectives of reducing demand, improving outcomes and patient safety must still be achieved.
He explained: “There is a critical opportunity for industry, and we need to take it. But we must be careful in our approach. If pharma goes in with the intention of selling, the NHS will sense it. Industry needs to think about how its products fit with NHS objectives. How we can help rather than just be there to sell a product.”
As coronavirus has forced the pace of digital transformation in the NHS, Leslie questioned the future of face-to-face engagement for pharma sales representatives, and suggested that if it did resume, meetings might take place away from the GP surgery or NHS trust.
However, on the whole, he believed that “digital is the future” and his view was backed up by the findings of a recent PM Society survey which showed that 26% of GPs expected regular face-to-face contact before the pandemic, compared to 12% afterwards.
Furthermore, 59% of GPs would have expected regular contact from pharma via the internet before the pandemic, but that figure has since risen to 67%.
There was also a marked change among secondary care doctors with considerable variation between specialties.
The NHS faces a difficult road ahead with fresh challenges to be overcome, and original objectives still to be met. Now is the time for pharma to take a step back and seek to understand how it can help.
By taking this approach, pharma could grasp the unique partnership opportunities that are arising post-pandemic and support the NHS through these unprecedented times. In essence, it could realise what we believe is a once in a generation opportunity.
To register to listen to the webinar on-demand, visit https://tinyurl.com/y7q8d74v
Oli Hudson is Content Director at Wilmington Healthcare. Go to www.wilmingtonhealthcare.com