Choose Well Article icon


As the frosty winter weather sets in, accident and emergency services across the country open their doors to thousands of patients, some of which were probably better off going to their local pharmacy.

During these months, more people suffer from illnesses or injury than at any other time of year and visits to the local A&E rise significantly.

Although they are happy to help with serious injuries, chest pain, black outs and blood loss, emergency departments are not the solution for a painful sprain or an annoying cough.

Current research indicates that nine in ten people think it is important for the local NHS to raise awareness about winter health, and 78 per cent claim it is very important to inform the public of alternatives to accident and emergency services.

And so, the NHS created the national Choose Well campaign to remind people of the alternative health services available.

The campaign, which runs from November until the end of this month, gives free rein to local areas to tackle the campaign in their own unique way.

In Coventry and Warwickshire, three clinical commissioning groups — NHS South Warwickshire, NHS Warwickshire North and NHS Coventry and Rugby - have joined forces with local councils, public health teams, hospitals, and Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust to do just that.

Arden Commissioning Support, a team that provides expertise and innovation to support clinical decision making and improve patient experience and outcomes in Coventry, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, has created a 'humorous and informative' animation to provide a clear message to the public.

'Dee's A&E Fail Tale', which features an animated rapping doctor, informs viewers that Dee's coughs, colds, minor cuts and sprains can be treated more quickly by a different service. This is emphasised by the catchy chorus 'Don't just rush to A&E. Choose walk-in, pharmacy or GP, if yours is not an emergency'.

Aaron Ashmore, e-communication development manager at Arden Commissioning Support, explains: 'There are various ways we communicate with the public but we have found video to be a very powerful tool. It is able to share a clear message to thousands of people without being in the form of a leaflet or a letter.'

The video is designed to be accessible to all ages, but is targeted at 16 to 25 year-olds.

Ashmore notes: 'We recognised that an audience of 16 to 25 year-olds often share and consume visual media like our video.

'We have also seen that university students, particularly those new to Coventry and Warwickshire, are often unsure of where their local health services are, and will often use A&E services when another service would have been more appropriate.'

To promote the video, the team has been engaging with people on the street and visiting a range of venues from hospitals and universities to branches of Tesco and Toys'R'Us.

'Engaging with the public face-to-face can often be an effective way of sharing messages,' says Ashmore. 'By going directly to the places where our target audiences are, we are able to make our campaign materials and messages even more accessible.

'We have visited a range of venues, including gyms, job centres, hospitals, colleges and schools, in order to speak to as many people as possible in Coventry and Warwickshire.'

Since it was uploaded on YouTube on 9 December with the explanation Have you ever been to A&E because you can't get a false nail off?, the video has been viewed more than 43,000 times.

Ashmore adds: 'When you upload a video to YouTube it has the ability to go viral simply by people liking and sharing it. We are trying to make it as accessible as we can.

The unit's Twitter account, @NHSArdenCSU, which has more than 2,500 followers, has also received a flurry of tweets about the video, such as Great video about Choosing Well in winter made by colleagues @NHSArdenCSU. Though beware it's an earworm and Very funny and spot on A&E song (why fake tan isn't an emergency).

Such is the popularity of the video that there have even been tweets demanding that it be aired on national television to remind viewers about the function of A&E. Indeed, one man went so far as to plan a whole marketing campaign around the song, demanding that the video be taken off YouTube and played on every television and radio station in the country instead. He asked GP surgeries to have the video playing on loop throughout the day and suggested that the rap be used as 'hold music' for emergency services call centres.

Ashmore explains: 'Although the initial target audience for the video was people in Coventry and Warwickshire, the reception has been so positive that it has been used in many NHS organisations nationally. There are no plans to put it on television at the moment but it is early days.'

To make the campaign as accessible as possible, Arden Commissioning Support is documenting everything they do. 'There are multiple strands to Choose Well including interactive games played on the street with members of the public, photographs of events via social media, and a mobile phone app which signposts people to nearby health services.

'We put everything we do on Twitter so the public can see what else we are doing for the campaign,' says Ashmore.

Members of the NHS Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group also have cardboard face cut-outs which can be used to pose as the rapping doctor or to play Dee, the star of the film. The cut-outs serve as an interactive tool for engaging the public to use, who are then encouraged to share the photos on their social networking sites to raise awareness of the campaign to a wider audience.

And on a daily basis, the three NHS clinical commissioning groups — @SouthWarksCCG, with 600 followers; @WarksNorthCCG, with 400 followers; and @CovRugbyCCG, with 800 followers - tweet posts about the campaign, to educate the public generally about the NHS and the services it provides.

Ashmore concludes: 'As the Clinical Commissioning Groups are relatively new organisations, we are focusing on Twitter to begin with and we may then branch out to Facebook and other social media channels in the future.'