Shared learning database

NHS East of England
Published date:
February 2011

This integrated staff communications campaign asks all staff involved in the care of inpatients throughout the region, to make sure all their patients are risk assessed for VTE, and that they receive the recommended preventative treatment. Developed with focus groups of clinical and front line staff in four hospitals across the east of England, the campaign features a distinctive look to make a very clear and simple message. The campaign has a full range of integrated communications materials.

This example was originally submitted to demonstrate implementation of CG92. This has been updated and replaced by new NICE guideline NG89. The example has been reviewed and continues to align generally with the updated guidance, which should be referred to if replicating any aspect of this example. 

Does the example relate to a general implementation of all NICE guidance?
Does the example relate to a specific implementation of a specific piece of NICE guidance?


Aims and objectives

  • To increase the number of VTE risk assessments completed for all inpatients in acute care, to 100%.
  • To save lives of hospital inpatients. The campaign asks all staff involved in the care of inpatients, to make sure all their patients are risk assessed for VTE, and that those patients receive the recommended preventative treatment.
  • To express a single, simple, active and clear call to action, overlaying all existing varied implementation, training and communications work in trusts.

This versatile approach would ensure coherence, universal compatibility, economy of scale, and simplicity of application.

Note that the communications board, medical director and all those involved in VTE prevention work, agreed that communications should not at this stage be aimed at patients. It was felt that there were risks to reputation and patient confidence, until NHS staff were more informed and more consistent in carrying out VTE assessments. It is fully intended to adapt and extend the campaign to face patients later this year.

Reasons for implementing your project

VTE (venous thrombo-embolism - the term for blood clots - DVT and Pulmonary Embolism) is a significant cause of mortality, long-term disability and chronic ill health. There are around 25,000 preventable deaths from VTE each year in hospitals in the UK (that's more than MRSA, AIDS, breast cancer and road traffic accidents combined).

NHS East of England's clinically-led vision for healthcare for the region's 5.6 million people made a pledge to 'make our health service the safest in England'. The vision's Patient Safety Clinical Programme Board made reduction of hospital acquired VTE a key priority. Nationally, it has also been recognised as a clinical priority by the National Quality Board, NICE, and by the Health Secretary. It is referred to in the White Paper 'Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS'. NHS East of England put into place a full implementation project, which moved at a fast pace with networking events, training and engagement.

The region's communications board decided to tackle this patient safety issue through a staff communications approach. A project group was formed, comprising patient safety and communications specialists from multiple NHS organisations around the region. The region's communications board decided to tackle this patient safety issue. A project group was formed, comprising patient safety and communications specialists from multiple NHS organisations around the region. (More details below.)

How did you implement the project

Sponsored by NHS East of England's Medical Director Dr Robert Winter, the project group developed a formal proposal for a campaign with full clinical involvement and approval. This was to develop a campaign aimed at staff in acute hospitals, with a simple call-to-action message via a distinctive identity. The campaign reminds all staff involved in the care of inpatients, to make sure they are risk assessed for VTE, and receive the recommended preventative treatment. The project group developed this messaging and used an NHS graphic designer to develop four options for a visual design for use in all the communications.

The project group were determined that this campaign would be effective. We therefore methodically tested the messaging and design options by setting up formal focus groups of front line clinical staff (medical directors, consultants, pharmacists, midwives, nurses etc) in four hospitals across the region: Addenbrookes (Cambridge), The Lister (Stevenage), Broomfield (Chelmsford), and Basildon. Following the invaluable insight provided by the focus groups, the messaging and visual design were finalised (see attachments) and the campaign materials produced by the project group, led by the NHS East of England communications manager. The materials included posters, internal newsletter articles, hospital intranet content, a screen saver, animated web banner ad, doctors briefing sheet, email marketing bulletin, PowerPoint presentation, removable labels, and an animated video (at Most resources are available from the campaign web site (, and more from a private resources web site.

The campaign has an integrated and professional feel, all materials carrying the distinctive graphics and produced to a high standard. It was launched by the regional medical director on 2 December 2010, with all communications leads in trusts asked and supported to implement it in their trusts.

Key findings

The following evaluation is in place:

  • Hits on the campaign website (1916 at 10 Feb 2011) and the YouTube video (360 views) are being monitored.
  • An activity proforma has been sent to all trusts to show exactly how they have implemented the campaign, including evidence (photos, copies of newsletters, etc). These are being followed up to offer direct support where required. Almost all trusts are doing so.
  • VTE risk assessment figures are collected through the national UNIFY data system. We will soon start to see the effect of the campaign on the quarterly figures.
  • We have secured a health psychology researcher funded by a university, to carry out a specific project to measure the impact of the campaign on staff behaviour and the consequent level of risk assessments undertaken. The researcher will design a questionnaire that would be deployed in all hospital wards. The results would be analysed per hospital and per profession.This is now being developed for piloting and then implementation in spring 2011.
  • Feedback received from trusts and national clinical leaders about this campaign, has been absolutely positive. The campaign and its animation have already been showcased at a number of regional and sub-national clinical engagement events. DH are arranging national roll-out of this campaign. The total cost of the campaign, including graphic design, printing, banners and the video, was under £5,000, covering all 18 hospital trusts. This region-wide approach is much more cost effective than each trust designing and implementing their own communications. Moreover, due to using internal expertise and careful management of the campaign, costs were kept to an absolute minimum.

Key learning points

A great deal has been learnt from this campaign. In particular, the importance of:

  • Having ownership and support from senior clinicians from the outset
  • Effective market research with the intended audience (in this case through focus groups of front line hospital staff)
  • Collaboration between organisations to lead and manage such a project
  • Keeping the messaging as simple as possible
  • Using the enormous expertise and dedication of existing NHS staff, rather than buying skills in. This has enabled us to keep the cost of the campaign to a minimum. We would also advise those considering a similar communications project, not to under-estimate the time involved in the collaboration and research, but to see it as a crucial investment due to the increased likelihood of success for your objectives.

Contact details

Jeremy Peters
Communications Manager
NHS East of England

Secondary care
Is the example industry-sponsored in any way?