By Peter Snowdon on 25 November 2016
Around every Christmas, it seems the news is full of stories about busy accident and emergency departments, and diverted ambulances. That might make sense: cold weather and winter bugs cause healthy people to have accidents and get ill... and result in those with an existing condition to deteriorate.
We can’t control the weather, so we can’t control its impact on the nation’s A&E departments, right?
The expert view on things is a little more complex. The nationwide view from two key reports (Quality Watch, published in July 2014, and economic modelling by Monitor) suggests that it is actually hospital admissions that cause care to clog-up. And, if we addressed the main cause of the spike in admissions in winter – respiratory illness – we’d ease the burden on our emergency services.
For the first time since I can remember, the NHS at a national level has invested in one, concerted campaign to tackle just that. By encouraging those most at risk of respiratory illness to take steps to stay healthier, the campaign – called Stay Well This Winter – aims to reduce admissions and reduce the flow of patients coming into urgent and emergency care. Problem solved! Well, not exactly...
Like all well designed social marketing campaigns, Stay Well This Winter balances its coherence as a campaign (simple, easy call-to-action; clever and relevant partnerships) with its ambitions to make an impact. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and instead of trying to touch everyone but end up resonating with no-one, Stay Well aims to make a very real dent through an ultra-targeted approach. And that’s exactly the sort of approach that should be taken at a national level.
Based on research about what moves people to behave the way they do, we’ve come up with persuasive and informative campaigns that change attitudes and behaviours.
We know, however, that a tremendous amount of nuance exists around why and how patients use services locally... and these call for local solutions. Across the dozens of CCGs and providers we support, we know people continue to needlessly bounce around services set-up to address an urgent or emergency care need.
Over the last three years, MLCSU has delivered and evaluated a range of campaigns that aimed to stop this and we have accumulated a growing body of evidence as a result. From this, we’ve developed a small range of scalable campaigns that address the other issues that cause pressure on the NHS. Service sign-posting, self-care and self-confidence, did-not-attends, medicines waste. All of these issues – if tackled – could free up resource and ease pressure on the NHS.
Our tried and tested social marketing model is guiding us to deliver creative, impactful campaign solutions. Based on research about what moves people to behave the way they do, we’ve come up with persuasive and informative campaigns that change attitudes and behaviours.