Campaign: Parkinson's carers told to 'get it on time'

More than 120,000 people in the UK suffer from Parkinson's disease, with a further 10,000 new diagnoses each year. Drugs can help to subside the physical symptoms of the disease, but patients without correct and timely medication can become very ill.

Campaign Get it on time
Client Parkinson’s Disease Society
PR team In-house/markettiers4dc
Timescale April 2006-ongoing
Budget £8,000 for radio segment

The Parkinson’s Disease Society launched its ‘Get it on time’ campaign to ensure that sufferers are properly treated in hospitals and care homes.

Objectives
To raise awareness of the issue among health providers, policy makers and monitoring agencies. To ensure hospital staff and carers are informed about the problem.

Strategy and Plan
In a PDS survey, nine out of ten specialist Parkinson’s nurses said improper administration of medication led to extended hospital stays or other clinical problems. Respondents blamed a number of factors for the prevention of timely medication, including inflexible hospital drug rounds and a lack of understanding among ward staff.

The charity published its findings during its Awareness Week in April 2006. It also wrote to the chief executive of every UK hospital trust, asking them to address the problem.

The PDS sent a press release to local and national press, with case studies prepared and spokespeople available for interview. The case studies included both positive and negative experiences of Parkinson’s sufferers, and were tailored for local radio, TV and newspapers. It also set up syndicated radio interviews through broadcast specialist markettiers4dc.

PDS wanted to reach MPs, so the charity hosted a parliamentary reception to officially launch the campaign, leading to debates in both houses and the Welsh Assembly. A similar reception was held in Holyrood in November 2006.

Measurement and Evaluation
More than 130 articles appeared in local, national and healthcare press, including the Daily Herald, Belfast Newsletter, Hello!, Liverpool Daily Post, Manchester Evening News and The Yorkshire Post.

The campaign was also covered by Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry, the Health Service Journal, Speech and Language Therapy in Practice, the British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing and Nursing and Residential Care.

Broadcast interest included regional BBC and independent radio stations, as well as TV channels S4C, BBC, ITV, Sky and Five.

Results
When the Healthcare Commission released its Medicines Management results in August 2006, it included information about the specific medi­cation needs of Parkinson’s patients. More than 600 healthcare professionals and sufferers requested campaign packs in response to media coverage surrounding the campaign.

The PDS says media enquiries during the 2006 Awareness Week were up 50 per cent on the previous year.

Anne Martin, a Parkinson’s disease nurse specialist at Bromley Hospital, says: ‘The “Get it on time” campaign has awakened staff to the problem. Parkinson’s patients no longer have to be scared of the hospital.’

SECOND OPINION

McMillan

About one in 500 people has Parkinson’s disease, and since the majority of these patients are aged over 60, the condition is not naturally compelling for mainstream media compared with, say, breast cancer.

But this campaign successfully conveyed the message that medicine not administered on time can lead to confusion, poor symptom control, and ultimately make drugs ineffective.

 

I especially liked the simple ‘on time every time’ message to speak to hospital workers who did not realise the repercussions of delivering medication late.

In the past, there has been limited acknowledgement of Parkinson’s Awareness Weeks in consumer press, but last year’s choice of topic by the PDS was an intelligent one. Part of the campaign’s success must lie in its simplicity, and the society’s ability to make it easily digestible for all target audiences.

The call to action to hospital trusts to re-examine current practices was practical and aimed at improving patients’ lives with­out requiring a huge cash injection.

Another strong feature was the society’s contact and access to specialist healthcare professionals, whose opinions provided the news hook. There was balanced use of patient testimonials, which enabled broad regional pick-up.

The campaign has refreshed the PDS as an organisation in the mind of the media, and provides many platforms for the future.

Fiona McMillan is director of healthcare at Cohn & Wolfe.

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