a health campaign for clots

Did you know? You are more at risk of a blood clot after a stay in hospital than from a long haul flight. That's a bit of a headache if you are in the NHS. Which is where this comms campaign came in handy.

by Andrew Cooper

We recently launched the Ask about Clots campaign in Wales.

It aims to increase public awareness over the risk of developing a blood clot while in hospital. The campaign’s simple message encourages individuals to ask about their personal risk so that they can be assessed and treated appropriately.

As we know, the major consideration for any campaign is what will actually engage people and motivate them to take the desired action?

In developing Ask about Clots, we focussed on three main areas which we believed were necessary to enable and encourage people to start asking!

Language – In health, we can quickly forget that the language we use isn’t always the most accessible. Technical terms, in-house jargon and acronyms can confuse those who work within the service – let alone those who are served by it. 

The brief for the campaign was to raise the profile of ‘hospital acquired thrombosis’ – which had already been abbreviated to HAT. One of the first decisions we took was to ban the term and focus on the main audience of the campaign (the public); identify more accessible language (clots) and make the call to action clear (talk to your healthcare professional about the risk of developing a clot).

Initial concepts were shared with the campaign’s clinical steering group as well as Lifeblood: the national thrombosis charity to ensure that the direction being taken was both clinically correct, but also publically accessible. Early names quickly gave way to Ask about Clots – enabling the name of the campaign and the call to action to become one and the same.

Perception – The campaign has needed to address the perception that individuals are more at risk of developing a blood clot from a long haul flight, rather than a period of time spent in hospital.

The media’s reporting of the risks related to air travel with sensational headlines like: “Millions at risk in new long-haul flights scare” (Daily Mail, 18 November 2000) have certainly been a major factor in shaping the public’s view. In a survey commissioned for the launch of the campaign, 62% of people in Wales believed that they were more likely to develop a clot on a long haul flight than in hospital.

The down-to-earth fact is that you are a 1,000 times more likely to develop a clot during, or in the 90 days following a hospital admission. The risk increases for groups which include the elderly, those having major surgery and being treated for cancer.

A major part of our strategy is to work with NHS Wales organisations to raise the profile of the campaign through hospitals and surgeries and an information video has been produced to support this.

Responsibility – Encouraging the public to start a conversation with healthcare professionals about their risk of developing a clot was a key element of the campaign. Patients are increasingly being seen as partners in their care – rather than just being recipients of it – and the campaign aims to encourage a shared responsibility.

However, this is still a relatively new idea – borne out by one of the questions posed to our clinical spokesperson, Dr Simon Noble, in a radio interview on the day of the launch: “But why is it up to the patient – rather than up to the doctors?” In his response, Dr Noble cited the involvement of patients and the public in hand hygiene campaigns over recent years as being a contributing factor to their effectiveness.

The growing focus on co-production which puts the emphasis on patients and health professionals developing and delivering solutions together further supports this approach. It’s a challenge to both the patient receiving care and clinicians carrying out the treatment – as anyone can get a clot, everyone should ask about them.

With 1,250 people at risk of dying from a blood clot every year in Wales, it’s important that we engage the public on this health issue.

The focus on getting the language right, being aware of the perception which needed to be challenged and promoting a shared responsibility all shaped and informed the material created to support the campaign. This included the design of the website, press material issued, an information video for health organisations and a series of filmed interviews for social media, with the campaign’s messages.

The ultimate aim has been to provide an informed and reasoned campaign for why people should ‘Ask about Clots’ so that lives can be saved from a largely preventable condition.

Andrew Cooper is comminications manager at 1000 Lives Improvement in NHS Wales.

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