Learning from the 1000 lives campaign

Exploring the role of communications in quality improvement

Campaigning has often been thought of as not particular scientific or credible when it comes to evidence based interventions for change. There is also a paucity of articles or books to help with designing and implementing campaigns which relate to improving quality improvement. The application of communication theories to campaigning has only recently emerged as an effective mechanism by which we can change behaviour, attitudes and values (Rose 2010).   So you can imagine our joy at finding this gem of an article in the Journal of Communication in Healthcare by Andrew Cooper and his colleagues (Cooper et al 2015 web link: http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/1753807615Y.0000000006).

As the article states there is substantial literature that examines communication in healthcare settings but very little that addresses campaigns and in particular campaigns in relation to safety or quality improvement. Why are we so interested? Well we are currently running a national campaign in England for patient safety called Sign up to Safety with many of the similarities and challenges shared by our colleagues in Wales.

Both campaigns have placed communications at the heart of what they are trying to achieve. I was heartened that the findings of the review of the 1000 Lives Campaign in NHS Wales resonated so strongly with how we wanted to use communications in Sign up to Safety. We too want to create steady forms of communication via multiple channels, become a sound presence in the lives of those who are taking part and across the NHS in England and generate a positive campaign with clear and simple messages, and a strong sense of purpose.

Our shared aim across the campaigns, to engage the hearts and minds of frontline staff, has led us to develop similar strategies and to using communications as a key method for change, and not simply a way to publish an opinion or what we are doing. We completely agree with the finding that telling stories about real people needs to be at the centre of any healthcare campaign.

Changing the safety of healthcare is a complex process. Campaigns and communications strategies help significantly in turning interventions on paper into implementable actions. As this article states, getting the aim right, understanding your audience, framing the right messages tailored for the specific context and using the right channels is crucial for success.

The team have so clearly described what they were aiming to do and what they achieved that we have been able to use this learning to help shape our own evaluation plans. It is great to see the thought processes are so similar to ours and the discussion section in particular resonates with the same discussions we have had in our planning days.

Everyday millions of people are touched by campaigns and it is important that they succeed. Both the 1000 Lives Campaign and Sign up to Safety aim to make a significant difference to the lives of people affected by the safety of patient care. Yet there is remarkably little evaluation and learning or analysis to help people replicate campaigns that are successful. Andrew Cooper and his colleagues have provided us with some key learning points and recommendations so that other’s efforts are not wasted and campaigns in the future have a much better chance to succeed.

Suzette Woodward, Campaign Director, Sign up to Safety

Catherine Harrison, Communications Manager, Sign up to Safety


Cooper, A., Gray, J., Willson, A., Lines, C., McCannon, J., and McHardy, K. Exploring the role of communications in quality improvement: A case study of the 1000 Lives Campaign in NHS Wales Journal of Communication in Healthcare 2015; 8(1), 76-84. DOI: 10.1179/1753807615Y.0000000006

Rose, C., How to win campaigns; communications for change Second Ed. 2010, Earthscan, London

Sign up to Safety can be found at www.signuptosafety.nhs.uk

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