Plans have been drawn up to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed this winter by encouraging patients to “behave in ways they’ve not experienced before” and cut down on in-person GP visits, the Guardian can reveal.
An advertising campaign devised by M&C Saatchi, awarded a contract by NHS England worth up to £28.6m, suggested ways people could be encouraged to settle for a virtual appointment or visit a pharmacist instead.
To help reduce the mounting pressures facing medics, documents show the agency also advised patients should be told that seeking help via alternative routes instead of rushing to A&E would help the NHS “work better for everyone”.
The three-year contract is for the ad campaign “Help Us Help You”, which seeks to change people’s behaviour when accessing healthcare to reduce pressures on the NHS and maintain capacity.
Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said patients were already cutting back on in-person GP appointments – “not because they don’t need them but they’re finding it impossible to get one”.
He told the Guardian: “Among those millions of patients who can’t get an appointment when they need it, there will be problems which go undiagnosed until it’s too late".
Source: The Guardian, 30 November 2022