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Independents' Day

GP-led health centre turns to cinema ads in bid to win patients

By Steve Nowottny

Exclusive: Advertising is the new battleground for general practices, after what is believed to be the first cinema campaign to recruit patients was launched, Pulse can reveal.

Movie-goers are being served up eight-second ads with their popcorn at the Vue multiplex cinema in Plymouth, to advertise the city's new GP-led health centre.

Devon Doctors, the GP-owned not-for-profit out-of-hours provider, which won the contract for the centre alongside a number of GP-led health centres across the country, from the south coast to the north west, claims it has already successfully recruited a number of patients on the back of the campaign.

It comes amid mounting concern from existing practices over competition from the new GP-led health centres.

Devon Doctors have taken out a year's contract with cinema advertising company Pearl and Dean.

Under GMC rules, practices are allowed to advertise as long as they do not make unjustifiable claims or put pressure on patients to use the service.

Business development manager Lee Grant told Pulse: ‘In terms of cost, we worked out that if it brings in two patients a week, it'll basically pay for itself.'

In its first month of operation the new centre drew in 423 patients, a proportion of whom chose to register.

‘A fair few have said they actually saw the ad or heard about the service from someone who saw it themselves,' he said.

‘The majority of our patients are simply ones that couldn't get an appointment with their own practice - it's not the practices' fault but the patient wants an appointment at 2 o'clock today and they can't have one.'

Mr Grant added that Devon Doctors planned to expand its marketing after allowing a few months for the centre to become established. Big local employers such as the dockyard in Plymouth would be targeted through direct marketing such as brochures or stands, he said.

Dr Preston de Mendonca, chair of Devon LMC's Plymouth Sub-Committee, said:

‘It's marketing rather than choice which has driven patient drift. It's a further commercialisation of the NHS which has not actually been shown to actually help things.'

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