At a glance: NHS Direct Interactive roll-out

Hasn’t NHS Direct been around for a while? Not this bit of it. It’s a new TV channel on Sky digital satellite that is being rolled out by the end of 2005 onto other platforms, such as Freeview and cable. It’s the latest addition to NHS Direct, the service that already includes a phone helpline and a dedicated website. Viewers will be able to access health information on the interactive portions of their screens via their remote control handsets.

So it’s not exactly encouraging exercise, then?

The idea is to reach people who do not have the internet at home to view NHS Direct’s online service – or those who would otherwise not think about their health at all. Providing 7.5 million homes with access to 3,000 pages of health information is better than nothing, the Government argues.

Who is handling PR for it?

Atlas Media Group, a big supplier of comms services to the NHS, was brought in for the launch of the channel, and has been concentrating on education of NHS audiences such as Primary Care Trusts as well as media relations.

So what are the potential editorial targets for PROs?

Topics on the new information channel include diet, nutrition, sexual health and smoking cessation, along with flu, diabetes and heart disease. The key here is that information will be constantly updated in line with new research and trends. And as well as lifestyle advice, there will be details on support groups and local medical services.

And the Government is right behind this?

It was launched with health secretary John Reid’s usual fanfare and represents a £15m investment over the next three years.

What else does NHS Direct offer?

As well as interactive TV, phone and online services, there’s a guide called Not Feeling Well, which comes with the Thomson Local directory.

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