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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
’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
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