Reputation is considered critical to successfully growing a network; being recognised for delivering good quality outcomes will help with numerical growth in an STP but having a national or international reputation was considered to be a more effective enabler across a wider geography. Patients may be less resistant to change if the new provider is well known for excellence. This could mean that without a strong reputation there may be limited opportunities for geographical network growth.
Reputation may be a strong enabler when looking to expand the network in securing support from commissioners and potential host trusts, particularly when looking to expand across several STPs. A strong reputation may help where there were previous recruitment challenges. However this is not a given and any recruitment issues need to be clearly understood.
Once the service is established, having a visible brand may be important to patients and other stakeholders. The need to visibly brand a service depends on organisational preference but also has to take into account local circumstances including the host trust. For example, there may be resistance to individual organisation branding, as it may be seen to confuse patients.
There may be reputational risk if any current service issues are not fully understood or there are unrealistic expectations which are then not delivered. Understanding and measuring existing service performance is critical to ensuring that improvements can be delivered and reputation protected.
It is clear that there is a subtle difference between reputation, which is seen as critical to network growth; and branding, which varied in importance. Networked care providers need to carefully consider this so that it fits with their strategy and network model.
- A reputation for excellence can help with staff recruitment and attract more NHS and private patients, which can facilitate growth.
- The decision to brand a network can depend on local circumstances, such as competition, as well as provider and host preferences and does not limit expansion.
- Reputation alone can facilitate expansion, whereas branding without a good reputation could have a detrimental effect. Ideally, networked care providers should have both reputation and branding to expand at scale and at pace.