Commercial awareness: 3 intelligent things to say about... the NHS

The key points to make if you're trying to impress recruiters
Commercial awareness
Politics and economics

If you're going to a business-related interview, careers event or networking opportunity in the next few weeks, what's happening with the NHS could be a great thing to bring up in conversation - the current reforms are a hot political, economic and business issue, and it's an institution that directly touches the life of just about everyone living in the UK at some point.

Making sure that you can summarise some overall themes, understand what they mean in real world terms, and express your own opinions on this important organisation is what will really impress an interviewer, recruiter or new contact.

To help you, here is a summary of three aspects of what's going on with the NHS that stand out to us - the relevant facts, our thoughts on them, and some pointers to help you form your own views.

"Is the NHS private already?"

The public sector status of the NHS and the threats to it is probably the single biggest talking point about the organisation. This is because of the political and economic significance of healthcare provision, but also because of the huge affection the British public has for the NHS.

But while debates rage over the NHS's future, remember that many important parts of it, including GP surgeries, pharmacies, and some hospital services are already private businesses with contracts with the NHS rather than being state-run. Even among publicly-owned sections, there's been an internal market for the provision of services for over two decades.

Add your own opinions

  • Do you think there's a business case for the NHS becoming entirely private?
  • How should public affection for the NHS and its cultural significance be factored into decisions about its future?
  • To what extent should medical services be run like businesses?

"The integration of health and social care is a big issue."

The integration of health care (providing medical advice and assistance) and social care (the provision of more general health and welfare advice and assistance) is a hot topic for the NHS at the moment. Integration of these two services where possible is being encouraged, as separating them has led to wasted resources and gaps in the care provided.

It sounds like a good idea but getting two large systems, with different organisational structures and different cultures, to work together has proved tricky. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, however, recently said that social care should be brought entirely into the NHS, arguing that they should be regarded as two aspects of the same service.

Add your own opinions

  • What would the practical challenges be of bringing the two separate systems together?
  • Should social care be free at the point of delivery as NHS care is?
  • What impact do you think that demographic change in the UK (the proportion of elderly people in the population is increasing) is having on government thinking in this area?

"Is prevention better than cure?"

The NHS's recently published "Five Year Forward View" suggested that prevention rather than cure was the way to go for the NHS in the future, stating: "the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health."

In practical terms that means more public health campaigns, possibly including economic incentives, to stop or reduce the extent to which British people smoke, drink alcohol and eat sugary foods, with NHS staff themselves being the first targets.

Add your own opinions

  • Do you think encouraging people to feel responsible for their health - and potentially to blame for their bad health - is a good idea?
  • Do you think the NHS will be able, or should be expected, to address the social inequalities that lead to some sections of the population leading less healthy lifestyles?
  • Do you think prevention campaigns are where NHS money is best spent?