CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AWARENESS; Doctors’ call for patient empathy

PR Team: Department of Health ‘Media Initiatives’ team and British Medical Association’s public affairs division Campaign: Doctor Patient Partnership Timing: March 1996 with ongoing regional events Cost: pounds 2.75 million including a pounds 750,000 advertising campaign by Ogilvy & Mather and funding for health authorities local awareness campaigns

PR Team: Department of Health ‘Media Initiatives’ team and British

Medical Association’s public affairs division

Campaign: Doctor Patient Partnership

Timing: March 1996 with ongoing regional events

Cost: pounds 2.75 million including a pounds 750,000 advertising

campaign by Ogilvy & Mather and funding for health authorities local

awareness campaigns



Out of hours calls to GPs have doubled since 1990 and now stand at 2.2

million a year, according to the British Medical Association. The number

of medical graduates opting for general practice is declining, while the

hours worked by GPs continues to increase - 23 per cent of GPs now work

over 80 hours a week. With increased patient expectations, paperwork and

more treatments taking place outside hospitals, the number of annual

consultations per GP has risen from 8,000 in 1988 to 12,000 seven years

later.



Last year the BMA’s GP committee went into dispute with the Government

about payment for GPs’ out of hours work. As part of the resolution, the

Government agreed to fund an awareness campaign to teach patients how to

use the service responsibly.



Objectives



To curb the ever-growing demand for night visits by GPs, which has risen

by 600 per cent in the last 25 years, and to educate patients on the

appropriate day and night use of family doctors, enabling them to

concentrate their time on the truly sick.



Tactics



The Doctor Patient Partnership programme kicked off with a national

press advertising campaign on February 28. To coincide with the

advertising launch, the Department of Health and BMA distributed a press

pack, containing copies of the 750-word text ads and a copy of a speech

made by health secretary Stephen Dorrell at the launch, to print and

broadcast contacts.



The national media push was followed by an ongoing campaign of events at

regional and local health authority level. The BMA commissioned Two-Ten

to produce a syndicated radio broadcast featuring BMA GP committee

negotiator Dr Simon Fradd.



Using the Doctor Patient Partnership press and resource pack, each local

authority also conducted its own media relations campaign providing

contact details of local doctors willing to be interviewed. Many of

these doctors carried out leafleting and awareness drives in their

surgeries and local communities.



Results



The message gained considerable news and features coverage in the days

following the launch, with subsequent regional interest. Many family

doctors were invited to write and broadcast on a national and regional

basis and several broadsheets ran think pieces on the changing role of

doctors in society. There were however some dissenting voices, with

family GPs’ hours compared to opening hours across the service sector.

The Guardian’s Mark Lawson also pointed out a contradiction between

health awareness campaigns that focus on different diseases each week,

and a call to patients to bother their GP less.



Verdict



The campaign fulfilled its remit to generate discussion on the issue of

how patients and family doctors should interact, and the Department of

Health’s chief press officer, forward planning and campaigns, Nick

Gammage was pleased with not only the initial coverage but also the

public response to the campaign.



However, it will be some time before the campaigners can assess whether

patient behaviour has changed at a local and sustained level.



Gammage says: ‘The department’s remit was to raise awareness through

news and think piece coverage. Now it is up to doctors to sustain

momentum at local level.’



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