Every hospital in the country has been ordered to alter its logo by NHS “identity managers” in a measure which has prompted fury and ridicule.
A ditkat from NHS England means hundreds of organisations will have to rework all their publicity materials, moving the NHS logo so it is above the name of each trust, instead of beside it.
The measure has been introduced by the “NHS identity team” following 1,000 interviews and 28 focus groups with members of the public. It follows a two year review of the health service logo with nine workshops involving 100 communications officials.
NHS England said it would reduce “confusion and concern” among the public – claiming that current inconsistencies in current use of the format could be fuelling pressures on Accident & Emergency units.
But hospital managers and charities poured scorn on the exercise – saying it would divert precious resources at a time when the health service is attempting to find £22bn in savings.
The new guidance, highlighted by Health Service Journal, advises every NHS organisation to comply with new brand rules. The main change is moving the “NHS” lozenge so it is above an organisation’s name- instead of bedside.
It was introduced by the NHS identity team, which has two members of staff on salaries of between £56,000 and £69,000 and £40,000 to £48,000 each.
Every organisation has been told to make changes to online publications within a year and to make changes to physical signs when practical.
An email sent to trust managers says: “Patients and the public are seeing the NHS identity in a range of diverse and inconsistent styles. This is creating confusion and concern.”
An NHS England spokesman said lack of consistency could be resulting in “more people inappropriately defaulting to A&E.”
NHS trust managers condemned the move as a waste of time at a time, at a time when services are under major strain.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said: “I cannot believe that at a time when the NHS is under such severe strain and so desperately short of money that they can waste all this time messing around with stupid logos.”
“This is not what patients care about. Patients want good safe care and we simply cannot afford or justify wasting time tinkering around with this sort of nonsense,” she said.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Barely a day goes by without complaints from the NHS about a lack of resources or staff shortage so questions will be asked as to how changing a logo – at a cost to taxpayers – can really be essential for hospital trusts.
“Too often in the NHS we see wasteful spending on non jobs like ‘identity managers’ when there really should be other priorities for limited resources,” he said.
It comes as organisations across the country have been asked to draw up plans to save £22bn by 2020, while meeting increased demand.
Draft proposals include swingeing bed cuts, which doctors have warned against, and controversial closures of A&E departments.