Supported by the Association of Healthcare Communicators


Jo Revill, health editor, The Observer

Wyn Roberts, head of campaign management, Department of Health communications directorate

Miranda Kavanagh, head of communications, Healthcare Commission

Lucy Betterton, chair, Association of Healthcare Communicators

Winner NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Tell the public you are reducing the number of local A&E departments and you have a tough communications problem. This team cracked it with a multimedia approach

The announcement in 2004 of plans to cut Glasgow's accident and emergency departments from five to two set alarm bells ringing among public and press alike, triggered 'save our hospital' campaigns across the city and saw banner headlines warning of dire consequences.

What the protesters failed to understand was that the£550m modernisation programme at the heart of all this change offered clinicians and patients a long overdue opportunity to move away from the unsuitable and overcrowded facilities that had housed them for more than 100 years and into purpose-built, user-friendly buildings designed around a new model of acute services.

The need to sell this radical improvement package to the local community and media outlets prompted NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to reconfigure its overstretched communications departments into one board-wide directorate. Publications staff and press officers were joined by a web officer and graphic designer to develop a strategy aimed at changing perceptions and winning public confidence, though without any increase to the limited budget.

NHSGGC communications decided on a proactive stance, challenging the critics and dissenters and promoting the modernisation programme. Time with editors, politicians, community groups and staff was spent persuading them of the benefits of the investment and improvement package.

To get the message heard the team implemented a strategy that combined a range of marketing materials and media, such as DVDs, a tabloid - Health News - and a selection of posters.

Images of working nurses and doctors endorsing the slogan '21st Century Medicine, 19th Century Hospitals' were displayed on billboards. Features in Health News, ad-trailers and leaflets carried artists' impressions of the new facilities. More than 350 people attended an 'Our Health' public event that laid out the modernisation plans.

The stance of coverage in the local press is now much more positive and the message is finally getting through to an audience that previously refused to listen. Scoping exercises show change in public perceptions and feedback reports enthusiastic talk about the improvement scheme.

Riding the wave of closures and cuts... and turning the tide of public opinion, contact

Highly commended Northamptonshire Heartlands PCT

This project implemented choose and book, provided training and raised public awareness

Choose and book was implemented across North Northamptonshire through the project 'Communication + collaboration = change throughout North Northants'. It was run by the North Northants service improvement team, which used people-change methods instead of approaching the activity as an IT system implementation project. Choose and book was marketed to the public through awareness sessions to patient groups, a poster, leaflet and booklet campaign, and manned display boards in public places. Awareness presentations were also given to GP practices, consultants and staff groups, and a flexible training programme was introduced for GP practices and the acute trust. By January 2006, 50 per cent of patients had heard of choose and book and 64 per cent of staff had received training and were up to date with developments.

Delivering excellence in primary care, contact

Finalist Blackpool PCT

A health inequalities campaign has seen an 11 per cent drop in teenage pregnancies in Blackpool, and helped promote the town as a healthy place

Blackpool Life: Rise to the Challenge is a wide-ranging campaign aimed at tackling health inequalities in Blackpool. In addition to improving health, organisers wanted to promote a positive image of the town as a healthy place to live, work and visit.

A year-long programme of events and activities concentrated on nutrition and physical activity; smoking, alcohol and drugs; sexual health and teenage pregnancy; and accident prevention.

The launch was covered extensively by local and regional media and, crucially, was supported by the town's evening newspaper.

Success so far includes an 11 per cent drop in teenage pregnancies since 2003, improved life expectancy, and increased numbers of people receiving drug and alcohol treatment.

Blackpool life: rise to the challenge, contact

Finalist North West Ambulance Service Trust

A campaign aimed at teenage drinkers encourages young people not to abandon their friends

Teenage drinking is the subject of The 'Don't Walk Away and Let a Friend DIE' campaign, set up to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol and what to do in an emergency situation. Paramedic Steve Evans began the campaign when he noticed an increase in the number of unconscious 11-13-year-olds he was picking up in his ambulance.

Young people were abandoning their friends at night because they were scared, did not know what to do and did not want to get into trouble.

The campaign includes a poster, first aid advice and a DVD. More than 12,000 posters have been distributed and the DVD is about to be sent to every school in England by Unison.

Mr Evans' advice and posters are on numerous websites. TV shows including Coronation Street, Casualty and Doctors have agreed to display the posters in their programmes.

The 'Don't walk away and let a friend DIE' campaign, contact

Finalist South Warwickshire PCT and General Hospitals Trust

Diabetes and heart disease in a South Asian community in South Warwickshire was the target of this social marketing campaign

The 'Apnee Sehat' ('Our Health') project was initially presented at a Sikh temple to more than 500 people from the community. The communication strategy was a 'storytelling' social marketing approach with pictorial slides, posters on healthy choices, a health-themed Divali calendar and a culturally sensitive lifestyle DVD in English and 'Bollywood'. A local restaurant introduced a healthy curry menu and healthy cooking classes were given at the Sikh Temple.

An evaluation by Warwick University found a general awareness of the importance of fundamental changes to health and lifestyles, and that changes had been made at the individual and household level.

The Apnee Sehat project, taking health messages from temple to table, contact