Media Analysis: Health Problem

Article excerpt

The NHS' job website saves health trusts millions - at the expense of newspapers and magazines. Bill Britt reports.

The biggest source of recruitment advertising for regional and local newspapers is showing signs of running dry.

The NHS, with 1.3m workers the UK's biggest employer, spends pounds 120m annually on recruitment advertising in England, more than two-thirds of it on regional press and the remainder mainly on specialist medical trade titles.

That rich source of revenue is under threat due to the growing success of the NHS' nascent in-house online recruitment site NHS Jobs (www.jobs.nhs.

uk). NHS Trusts began experimenting with the website in November 2003 and now 575 of the 650 trusts use it to varying degrees.

Last month NHS Employers, the Department of Health arm that operates NHS Jobs, published a report on its initial cost savings. In the six months to 30 September last year, trusts using the job site saved pounds 5m in filling 10,200 jobs. Of that figure, pounds 4m was saved by not using paid advertising and pounds 1m by reducing back-office administrative costs, as the site uses a single online application form.

NHS Jobs attracts 1m visitors a month and is already the UK's fourth-biggest job board behind Jobsite, Totaljobs and Reed. Last year trusts placed 76,500 jobs on the site.

Stuart Morison, NHS Jobs' service manager at NHS Employers, says it is on target to deliver pounds 25m in savings by 2008 - money that he says will be ploughed back into patient care. 'Most of those savings will have come from the trusts not having to place ads in local press and specialist journals,' he says.

Newspaper concerns

It is perhaps no coincidence that on the same day that NHS Employers published its cost-saving study, The Newspaper Society, which represents 1300 regional and local newspapers, met with NHS Employers and the Digital Content Forum, a discussion group sponsored by the DTI and comprising industry and government departments, to influence policy-making.

Publishers are not only concerned about lost NHS business, they are also worried that other government departments will see the NHS' success and replicate it. Some argue that they should have been more involved in the set-up of NHS Jobs, when they could have agreed ways to work together to benefit advertisers.

The Newspaper Society has also released findings of research conducted by media strategy consultancy Human Capital based on a survey sent to 8000 people in March last year.

It found that regional newspapers were the most useful source for job seekers.

It plans to present its findings to NHS Employers.

Robert Ray, marketing director of The Newspaper Society, says that local newspapers still have a role to play in attracting applicants. …