In our NHS Communications and Engagement department, we always try to avoid alienating our audience by using simple language and explaining the background – writing as if they know nothing about our project or campaign.
But it’s also important to strike a balance between patronising and using too much ‘NHS’ speak. Communication top tips from NHS England’s ‘Transforming Participation in Health and Care’ is a useful guide.
For example, at a recent patient network meeting with Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, I was pleased to see a range of patients who were really informed about the NHS. It was fantastic to be able to have in-depth conversations as this group already knew the context and a lot about the local services. Of course, this group is actively interested in healthcare services, but the general public are becoming more informed too.
The results of a recent consultation on infertility services were presented at this patient network meeting. Looking around the room, I incorrectly presumed that this as many of the group wouldn’t be directly affected by the outcome, that they wouldn’t be interested or have an opinion. But many of them were clarifying the facts and figures, and raising very pertinent questions.
Although it makes sense to focus on the main target groups when running a consultation, we should remember that other groups also have something to contribute. Understanding your audiences properly and tailoring the information you give to them will help you strike the right balance.