The Government announced in June 2000 that the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme would be introduced to replace the existing Infant Distraction Tests, which are carried out by health visitors when babies reach seven to eight months.
The nationwide rollout was designed to meet the urgent need for early identification of deafness in babies, following National Deaf Children's Society and Medical Research Council lobbying.
The NHS Information Authority asked Orchid PR to handle the media launch of the national Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, following a pilot across England and Wales.
To make technology, health, public sector and consumer journalists aware of the new programme. To promote the test to healthcare professionals and encourage them to implement it locally.
Strategy and Plan
The PR team had just four weeks to put the campaign together, with a wide range of target media. The NHS Information Authority's in-house team dealt with the promotion's launch to health professionals, especially midwives.
The overriding message was that the new screening programme was a successful NHS initiative that improved the delivery of lifelong healthcare as well as saving government money through the effective use of technology.
Secondary messages were that the test was easy, cheap and had a high success rate. Parents would know how well their babies could hear before they were discharged, and, where hearing difficulties were identified, an appointment with a specialist was set up immediately.
The team tailored press packs for each sector of target media. Case studies were put together, and interviews with midwives who had taken part in the pilot were arranged as appropriate.
The launch event at the Royal Institution involved health professionals talking to their peers - mainly midwives - about the programme.
Measurement and Evaluation
The target was for the screening programme to be featured in just one national newspaper. However, the launch was covered extensively in The Times, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Express, Pregnancy and Prima Baby.
It was also covered by GMTV, London Tonight and LBC.
Healthcare press editorial included Midwives' Journal, Health Management, Health Service Journal and Primary Health Care.
After successfully going live in Peterborough, the programme is set to move to Nottingham next month, and then east London and Oxford.
Daily Mirror health correspondent Jill Palmer said the case study organised for the paper worked well: 'For anything in the Mirror, a real-life case study is 100 per cent important, and this was a great story. We did have lots of interest and response, with people calling to find out more.'