The impact of PR on the NHS: 75 years of shaping healthcare

The NHS is a national treasure, and as it celebrates its 75th anniversary, I wanted to reflect on the role that PR has played in its success.

When the NHS was founded in 1948, it faced an uphill battle in winning public trust. PR was essential in conveying the NHS’s vision of providing comprehensive healthcare, free at the point of use, to all. One of the most successful early PR campaigns was “Your NHS Needs You”, which inspired people to get involved and feel a sense of ownership of the NHS.

The NHS has continued to use PR effectively throughout its history, running campaigns on a range of important health issues. These include:

Blood donation

The NHS’s blood donation campaigns have played a vital role in saving lives. Through carefully crafted PR strategies, the NHS consistently appeals to the public to donate blood, highlighting the life-saving impact of each contribution.

Healthy lifestyle

The “Change4Life” campaign addressed the pressing issue of obesity and related health problems. It sought to promote healthy lifestyle choices, particularly among children and families. The campaign used various media channels, including TV ads, interactive websites, and collaborations with popular brands and characters, to inspire healthier habits and combat obesity.

Cervical screening

The “Cervical Screening Saves Lives” campaign encourages women to attend cervical screening appointments. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of regular screenings in detecting and preventing cervical cancer. Through educational materials, social media engagement, and testimonials from survivors, the campaign has succeeded in motivating more women to prioritise their cervical health.


The COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges for the NHS, but it also demonstrated the power of PR in generating public support. Captain Sir Tom Moore, a 100-year-old war veteran, emerged as a national hero during this time. His remarkable fundraising efforts for NHS Charities Together captured the nation’s imagination and fostered unity amidst uncertainty. Skilful PR management ensured widespread coverage of his story, raising millions of pounds, and emphasising the significance of community support for the NHS.

Mental health

Recognising the importance of mental health, the NHS has conducted various campaigns to reduce stigma and encourage open discussions around mental health issues. These campaigns aim to raise awareness about available mental health services, promote self-care practices, and encourage individuals to seek help when needed. They play a crucial role in destigmatising mental health problems and promoting overall wellbeing.

PR has been a vital tool in communicating the NHS’s values and achievements. Through impactful campaigns and memorable PR stunts, the NHS has, for 75 years, managed to engage the public, mobilise support, and foster a sense of ownership and pride in this national institution.

Now, as the NHS embarks on its future journey and works to address workforce challenges, and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of PR will remain paramount – especially as it tries to rebuild trust. Effective communication, creative campaigns, and transparent messaging will continue to ensure the NHS’s enduring legacy as a cherished and vital part of British society.

‘Time to Fix the Damage the Conservatives Have Done’: What the answers to this week’s Oral Questions can tell us about the new Government’s plans for Health and Social Care

Myth Busting Working in Communications

Myth-busting a career in Communications

Add PLMR to your contacts

PLMR’s crisis communications experience is second to none, and includes pre-emptive and reactive work across traditional and social media channels. We work with a range of organisations to offer critical communication support when they are faced with difficult and challenging scenarios.