CAMPAIGNS: Doctors’ cure for time wasting - Public Awareness

GPs have long felt that many patients had a poor understanding of the appropriate use of GPs’ time and earlier this year the Royal College of General Practitioner’s Patients’ Liaison Group identified the need for a set of leaflets giving guidance on the appropriate use of GPs’ time, emphasising a partnership between patient and doctor.

GPs have long felt that many patients had a poor understanding of

the appropriate use of GPs’ time and earlier this year the Royal College

of General Practitioner’s Patients’ Liaison Group identified the need

for a set of leaflets giving guidance on the appropriate use of GPs’

time, emphasising a partnership between patient and doctor.



Objectives



To educate patients about the workings of the family doctor service; to

help doctors understand communications problems with patients and widen

awareness of the college.



Tactics



The leaflets, prepared in conjunction with the Patients’ Liaison Group,

were distributed primarily through the Department of Health’s

publication division. A letter and sample leaflet, co-signed by the

College chairman and the principal medical officer, were sent to health

authorities.



One of the problems is that GPs are sent so much literature generally,

that the leaflets had to be heavily promoted to gain attention.



The team brought in Sir Kenneth Calman, chief medical officer, and Dr

Mark Porter, the ’TV doctor’, to endorse the programme at its launch on

4 February. Prior to the launch a two-hour interview session was

arranged with the BBC featuring the chair of the Patients Liaison Group.

Press releases were sent highlighting the launch to national, regional,

consumer and specialist press as well as radio and TV stations and

relevant MPs.



Results



The chair of the Patients’ Liaison Group was interviewed by 10 local

radio breakfast news programmes. A total of 35 local and national radio

interviews took place. The activities of the College and the

distribution of leaflets were covered by the Mirror and Sunday Mirror.

Other mentions appeared in the Guardian, the Evening Standard, the News

of the World magazine, the Mail on Sunday magazine, Essentials, Best and

Cosmopolitan.



The Health Literature Line received 4,430 calls from the public between

2 February and 27 March. Initially 800,000 leaflets were printed and by

the end of March three of the five leaflets had to be reprinted. There

is now a waiting list of 200,000 requests.



Verdict



In terms of press coverage the campaign was a moderate success although

it was hardly the ’blanket coverage’ the College claims. The number of

leaflets dispatched is impressive and doctors approve of the content of

the leaflets and the wider awareness campaign.



’I liked the leaflets, especially the fact that they are not copyright

so we can modify them for our own surgery. They say things we wanted to

say without talking down to patients, which was previously the case,’

said GP Catti Moss.



The BMA welcomes the leaflets but is sceptical of their

effectiveness.



’It’s a welcome addition to our own initiatives, but we’re not sure that

the message is strong enough. It needs regular reinforcement as people

forget these things very quickly,’ said Nigel Duncan, the BMA’s head of

communications.



The true worth can only be gauged by doctor/patient satisfaction in the

longer term. But the leaflets have raised the profile of the RCGP, they

have educated members of the public and given GPs assistance in

communicating their difficulties to patients.



Client: Royal College of General Practitioners

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Launch of five leaflets promoting patient/doctor partnerships

Timescale: February 1997 - on-going

Cost: Undisclosed grant from Department of Health



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