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Appearing in the three-part BBC primetime documentary series Ambulance, along with focused social media support, brought multiple benefits to the service, according to its evaluation of the project.

Headline stats following broadcast showed that 70 per cent of viewers felt more positive towards the service, while two fifths would think twice about calling 999 if the situation wasn’t an emergency.

Job applications for roles as emergency medical dispatchers and graduate paramedics, promoted during the series, also more than doubled.

Internal comms impact

Meanwhile, the internal comms gain was tangible, with more than 88 per cent of staff saying they felt proud working for LAS after the series was broadcast, compared with 54 per cent beforehand.

"It is clear that the documentary - and the multimedia campaign that we ran alongside it - had a huge impact on the whole ambulance service, our stakeholders, the media and viewers," said Anna Macarthur, head of media and campaigns, London Ambulance Service.

"It influenced how people will use the ambulance service in the future, made staff feel proud to work for the service and increased interest in working for us in the future."

Initial discussions were held between the LAS comms team, the BBC and production company Dragonfly, before the service’s executive leadership team approved the project in January 2016.

But at a time when LAS faced intense scrutiny, having been asked to improve by the Care Quality Commission, it was crucial the documentary would have a well-rounded impact.

PR goals for the documentary

LAS set out a number of goals for the PR activity, which included fostering a sense of pride in working for the service while boosting staff morale and retention, highlighting the skills of control room staff and clinical expertise of those on the front line, and showing how the service responds to increasing demand, while maintaining high levels of patient care. 

It also wanted to encourage viewers to consider a career working for LAS, increase public understanding of what is an emergency, influence behaviour and help people understand that not everyone who dials 999 will get an emergency ambulance with flashing blue lights and that people with less serious illnesses and injuries will wait longer. 

A casting period took place, when staff were chosen to appear in the show, before filming took place in April and May 2016.

During a post-production editing phase through the summer, a media and social media campaign, including publicity photos and interviews, was created to maximise the impact of the documentary among staff, stakeholders and Londoners.

Social media reach

Ambulance was broadcast on BBC1 in September and October 2016, during which LAS ran a social media campaign to promote the correct use of 999, encourage people to consider working for the service and promote the expertise of staff. 

A total of 18 Facebook posts had a combined reach of almost one million people, while 74 proactive tweets had 721,000 impressions, with an engagement rate of 3.8 per cent, more than double the usual average rate of 1.6 per cent.

Live Twitter events throughout the three episodes reached a combined total of 1.9 million impressions, with an engagement rate of 3.6 per cent. These included live tweeting while the shows were broadcast, as well as a Q&A with operational staff after one of the episodes.

Traditional media

On traditional channels, there were 39 pieces of regional and national media coverage, in newspapers including The Guardian, Radio Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, with a combined readership of around 28 million.

Meanwhile, there was a strong focus on internal comms, with regular updates on the LAS intranet site, The Pulse, the Listening Into Action Facebook group, and daily comms email bulletins to staff.

The London Ambulance Service’s evaluation of the project stated: "The documentary series boosted staff morale and recruitment and changed the perception of the service in a positive way."

Published in Global News

An estimated one in five adults in the UK witness someone collapse who needs immediate CPR, yet the majority of people do not act, according to new research funded by the British Heart Foundation (1).

The surprising findings have been released today on Restart a Heart Day -- an annual day to increase awareness of the importance of CPR. This year, more than 150,000 young people across the UK will be trained in CPR in the largest ever event of its kind.

Cardiac arrest survival rates in the UK have remained stubbornly low and a collaboration of leading organisations are calling for all young people to be trained in CPR to help save more lives.

The BHF, Resuscitation Council (UK), St John Ambulance, British Red Cross, Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) and all the UK NHS ambulance services along with Fire & Rescue services are working together to address this.

Researchers at the University of Warwick carried out a survey of 2,000 people across the country to find out how likely people are to witness a life-threatening cardiac arrest. In addition to the vast numbers of people who have seen someone suffer a cardiac arrest, they also found that people were nearly three times more likely to perform CPR if they had received training (1). This highlights the importance of learning CPR to help improve survival rates.

Survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrest in the UK are still worryingly low with less than one in ten people surviving. The BHF estimates that 10,000 people die every year in the UK (2) as rates of bystander CPR are as low as 39% (3) in some parts of the country. This is significantly worse than other places such as the Netherlands (66%), Seattle (69%), Victoria, Australia (69%) and Norway (73%) (1).

Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person's chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around ten per cent (4). If CPR is taught more widely, it's estimated that thousands of lives could be saved every year (6).

A survey conducted by the BHF (5) revealed that an overwhelming 89% of respondents also believe that CPR should be taught in all schools in the UK. The same survey showed that there is a significant reluctance to perform CPR with 40% of respondents stating that they lacked the skills and knowledge to perform CPR.

On and around 16 October, events will be taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in a bid to create over 150,000 new young lifesavers on Restart a Heart Day.

Prof Gavin Perkins, Professor of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Warwick, who led the research, said, "Our research shows just how important it is for everyone to learn CPR. It is staggering to think that 1 in 5 of us will at some point have the opportunity to save a life by giving CPR.

"CPR is a vital step in the chain of survival after a cardiac arrest. The chance of surviving is almost zero if people collapse and receive no bystander CPR until the emergency services arrive. Thousands of deaths could be prevented if more people learn CPR."

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said, "CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, and it simply isn't enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present. We need everyone to learn this life-saving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest. That's why we are urging secondary schools across the UK to apply for our free training kits and help create a Nation of Lifesavers."

Federico Moscogiuri, Chief Executive Officer of the Resuscitation Council (UK), said, "The young people who receive CPR training today will become the lifesavers of tomorrow. Today, over 150,000 young people will receive both face-to-face and online instruction through our free Lifesaver app, which can be played on a mobile device anytime, anywhere and downloaded from The CPR these young people learn today will be a skill they carry with them throughout their lives."

Dr. Andrew Lockey, Honorary Secretary of the Resuscitation Council (UK), said, "For this year's Restart a Heart day, we will see unprecedented numbers of young people being taught the vital lifesaving skill of CPR. Endeavours ranging from individual effort through to nationally coordinated activity will show that there is a desire to improve the chances of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. Everyone can be a lifesaver and the skills are easy to learn, either online or with face-to-face training. Most out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in the home, so everyone should ensure that they are those around them are skilled up to save a life."

Jason Carlyon, Clinical Development Manager for Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said,

"Since we pioneered the mass CPR training event at Yorkshire's secondary schools with our partners on Restart a Heart Day in 2014, we have seen improvements in our out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates as well as an increase in the number of people willing to use CPR when someone suffers the ultimate medical emergency. The value of events like Restart a Heart Day cannot be underestimated."

Mel Fox, Director of Training at St John Ambulance, said, "We're thrilled that so many schools have chosen to take part, and we recognise that many more train first aid at other times of the year. Now's the time for first aid education to be available to all our young people. Learning CPR and other life saving skills should be part of their passage into adulthood and with many free resources available for schools like our Big First Aid Lesson on 3rd November, there is plenty of opportunity for children to become life savers."

Joe Mulligan, head of first aid education at The British Red Cross said, "We want all young people to feel confident and willing to help when faced with a first aid emergency. Learning first aid helps to increase confidence levels and we believe it's a life skill everyone should have.

"Ultimately the British Red Cross would like everyone to have the opportunity to learn first aid throughout their lives, starting at school, so that a generation of people can be equipped with the skills they need to help in an emergency.

"Our free teaching resources and workshops are designed to give young people the skills, confidence and willingness to act in an emergency."

Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director for NHS England said: "When one in five people witness someone collapsing who clearly needs CPR but the majority don't feel able to help, it's time to act. Teaching CPR to school children equips them with the knowledge that will ensure they can act in times of need. Empowering a young person with such a skill will allow them to take control in such a situation and possibly ultimately save a life."

There are more than 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests across the UK every year but less than one in ten people survive. Mandatory training of all secondary school children in CPR would improve this rate of survival.

The BHF's Call Push Rescue CPR training kit is free for eligible secondary schools in the UK. Accredited by The PSHE Association for use in PSHE and PSE lessons, the kit comprises quality training equipment and resources needed to teach children life saving CPR skills.

Published in Clinical News