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20th December 2017, 17:45 | Widnes
Winter is the busiest time of the year for the NHS, with local services facing significant pressure and increased demand. The campaign, which is part of Widnes Vikings’ unique ‘Beat The Scrum’ initiative, aims to reduce these challenges by informing the public on how to choose the right NHS services and protect their health at winter.
It features the likes of Warrington Wolves legends Paul Cullen and Mike Nicholas, former St Helens stars Ray French and Phil Vievers, and present and past Widnes Vikings players, including club legend, ‘Big’ Jim Mills. Together, they deliver important NHS messages in a series of creative, fun and thought-provoking video features.
Amongst the campaign’s aims is to increase the uptake of flu jabs amongst people at risk of contracting the illness, and to highlight the effective alternative to A&E departments provided by Urgent Care and Walk-In Centres. With over than 120,000 people from Warrington, St Helens, Knowsley and Halton unnecessarily visiting A&E departments last year, at a cost of more than £10 million, these videos have a vital message.
The campaign comes at a critical time. The British Lung Foundation recently highlighted the low uptake of the flu vaccine amongst children and at-risk groups nationally, and the potential impact this could have. Accident and Emergency Departments are also braced for unprecidented demand during the Christmas and New Year period.
The Beat The Scrum project sees Widnes Vikings partner with the NHS Mid-Mersey A&E Delivery Board to deliver a yearlong programme, aimed at educating and engaging the public on how to make the right health choices. The www.beatthescrum.com brand, a website that provides an accessible hub of brilliant health information, features on the front of the team’s 2018 playing shirts. This will be supported by a number of exciting PR, stadium advertising and digital marketing campaigns throughout 2018.
The programme builds upon a ground-breaking PR campaign that the club delivered in partnership with NHS Halton CCG in June, which achieved more than 100,000 video views and supported a 7.2% reduction in A&E admissions within Halton. It received the prestigious Rosa Parks Award from the Academy of FAB NHS Stuff and was awarded two accolades from the Chartered Institute of Marketing last month.
Chris Houston, Co-Captain of Widnes Vikings, says: “I’m proud that everyone in our squad has played a part in supporting this Beat The Scrum campaign. When we learned about the scale of the challenge faced by the NHS, we all wanted to play our part. I hope that supporters from across Rugby League can back this effort by sharing the videos and taking on board the campaign messages. Together, we can make a real difference.”
Paul Cullen, Warrington Wolves legend and former Head Coach of Widnes Vikings, says: “I was staggered when I learned about the number of unnecessary visits to A&E departments in our region last year. To know that A&E departments are facing this type of pressure, and that £10 million has been wasted as a result locally is shocking. I hope that the campaign raises real awareness of the brilliant services provided by local Walk-In Centre and Urgent Care services, which can help alleviate this strain.”
He continues, “We all need to play our part on reducing the burden on the NHS. That’s why I’m proud to have signed up as a Beat The Scrum Ambassador.”
Ray French, St Helens RFC legend and the voice of BBC Rugby League, says: “The NHS is there for us all when we need it most, so I’m proud to be part of a campaign that encourages us all to play our part in supporting this great institution. Simple decisions such as taking a flu jab or choosing to visit a walk in centre can have a real benefit to both you and your NHS, so please get behind the campaign. The videos were great fun to be part of and I hope they make a big difference.”