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an Economist Intelligence Unit business healthcare

Behind the Headlines

 

Client

NHS Choices

 

Background

In 2007 the NHS launched their new website: NHS Choices. The service was designed as an online 'front door' to the NHS. It is the country's biggest health website and gives all the information you need to make choices about your health. One of the key services envisaged for the 2007 launch of NHS Choices was Behind The Headlines: daily evidence-based analyses of healthcare stories that appear in the morning papers. The service was designed to provide same-day evidence-based analyses of healthcare stories that appear in the morning papers. 

 

The problem

NHS Choices had to find a supplier would could, without fail, supply two evidence-based analyses of scientific articles behind two of that day’s health stories, within hours of the stories first hitting the headlines. These analyses had to be conducted rapidly to allow the NHS to give its point of view about media stories to the public and clinicians on the same day that the stories appear. The analyses also need to be robust and defensible as they represent the voice of the NHS and the Department of Health about the issues at hand; a challenging proposition.

 

Our solution

The scope for Behind the Headlines – guaranteed delivery of two analyses each weekday by noon, quality assured by a senior clinician, without fail – was demanding. Bazian was approached because of our track record of delivering ambitious evidence-based projects. We provided both the expertise and resource to deliver the service – our health research analysts are trained and experience in critical appraisal (they all have extensive experience of working research themselves) and in how to write clearly for a non-specialist audience: it’s one thing to understand an article yourself, something quite different to be able to explain it to a varied audience when the clock is ticking, twice a day, every day. The analyses are written in an accessible style that is independent, scientifically robust and, where necessary, critical; helping the public, healthcare professionals and journalists alike to separate fact from spin and to stay informed about what these stories, and the underlying research, mean for our everyday lives. The analyses undergo internal peer review and are read and approved by a senior clinician, ensuring that conclusions are medically safe.

 

The outcome

Feedback to date has been extremely positive (see a selection of testimonials below). Behind The Headlines is one of the most visited sections of NHS Choices, and one prominent healthcare executive recently said he streams it via RSS to his start page each morning, calling it a “must read”. Behind the Headlines won the BMJ Group Awards for Best Innovation in Medical Communication.

 

Testimonials

“Bazian demonstrate on a daily basis their ability to produce high-quality scientific appraisals for our news service within the extremely tight deadlines that are required of them. Their reliability and consistency are matched with a flexibility to cope with any ad hoc demands necessary for the service.”

Paul Nuki, Chief Editor of NHS Choices

 

“If you are looking for ways to help your patients who are the target of overzealous headlines, or looking for a critical analysis of topical news items, then try out Behind The Headlines. It is interesting, expertly prepared, and quickly available after articles in the lay press on science and health that may be misleading.”

Brian Haynes MD, PhD, Editor, EvidenceUpdates

 

“Whilst overall the media did a pretty good job in reporting the paper […] they found it difficult to get the most important message of the paper across. Not so Behind The Headlines. Within hours appeared an elegant, detailed and clear outline of our paper, its strengths and weaknesses, and its main messages. And they were also able to immediately comment on one or two of the more inaccurate headlines as well.  I wish I knew how they did it, but I hope that they continue in the same vein. I have learned also my lesson – now if I want impartial, swift, accurate and succinct analyses of recent major research, and want to know what it really means, but don’t have the time to turn to the original paper itself, I know exactly where to look.”

Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at King’s and Maudsley Hospitals

 

“Both the Science Media Centre and the journalists we work with find Bazian’s analyses extremely useful; they help to put a scientific study into context, making immediately clear its strengths and limitations. The “Behind the Headlines” service is particularly useful not only to the public and health professionals, but also to those working in science communication and science media. It is a great source of information and analysis about the biggest health stories of the day – showing where and how they were covered in the media, and providing much needed background on where they came from in the first place. Many specialist health reporters follow the service, using examples of previous stories covered to help explain to their newsdesks why the context and rigour of scientific studies are important.”

Fiona Fox, Director, Science Media Centre

 

“I find it very useful to read Bazian’s views on a study's strengths and limitations.”

Katherine Jarman, Health Producer, BBC News

 

“I think Bazian’s assessments are excellent and hit the right top notes. […] they could be fantastically useful in either getting a story on or, more likely, preventing scare stories.”

Lawrence McGinty, Health and Science Editor, ITV News