Set up in February 2000 as part of the NHS Modernisation Agency, the National Primary Care Development Team (NPDT) helps practices and Primary Care Trusts (PCT) to deliver improvements in patient services. In 2003, to underline its role and secure Government support, the NPDT turned to Media Strategy.
To establish the NPDT as a key player in NHS modernisation and communicate its achievements in reducing patient waiting times to the Government, PCTs, GPs and patients. To recruit more GP practices to its programmes and position NPDT head Sir John Oldham as an innovator in the delivery of healthcare services.
Strategy and Plan
The PR team initially drew up a media relations programme aimed at the specific publications read by the target audiences.
It was particularly important to get trade management title Health Service Journal on board. Media Strategy was commissioned to produce a supplement dedicated to the work of the NPDT for HSJ's January 2003 issue, subsequently used as a marketing tool at the NPDT January conference.
In order to increase awareness among GPs, the team placed feature articles in publications such as Pulse, GP and Doctor. Meanwhile, PCT managers were targeted through titles including Primary Care Today and Primary Care Report.
To spread the word to patients and healthcare professionals, the PR team addressed the national newspapers and broadcast media. This involved press releases, feature material and broadcast interviews with Oldham.
Measurement and Evaluation
Nationally, the Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Times covered the work of the NPDT, with the latter describing the organisation as 'the solution to the GP crisis'.
Oldham was interviewed on programmes including BBC Radio 4's You and Yours and Radio 5 Live's Breakfast Programme. An interview featuring a GP case study featured on GMTV with a follow-up discussion piece with Dr Hilary Jones.
In-house evaluation showed that over the first six months from January to June 2003, the key messages of 'improved GP access for patients' and 'improved working lives for GPs' were delivered in 94 per cent of coverage.
Oldham was mentioned in 69 per cent of coverage.
The number of surgeries involved in NPDT programmes has risen from 1,000 at the start of the campaign to over 3,500, covering almost 24 million patients.
Tony Blair made a guest appearance at the organisation's January conference, and further recognition was awarded last April when the NPDT was granted agency status.
Articles concerning the work of the NPDT regularly appear across GP and primary care publications and Oldham has become an established commentator on a variety of healthcare topics.
Doctor editor Charles Creswell says: 'It is a bit of a difficult story to get over to our audiences in many ways, as there are many contentious issues. But, certainly, the battle has been won and there is greater acceptance that fast GP access won't go away.'