NHS World Cup online game costs taxpayer thousands

The DoH spent thousands of pounds developing a Facebook 'health game' themed on the football World Cup, GP has learned.

DoH's World-Cup themed health game aimed at 'hard-to-reach groups' (Photograph: www.nhs.uk)
DoH's World-Cup themed health game aimed at 'hard-to-reach groups' (Photograph: www.nhs.uk)

The 'NHS World Cup Football Fan Fitness Challenge' cost the department £15,300, data obtained by GP show. But just 12,000 people accessed the challenges during the month-long World Cup - meaning the game cost £1.28 per user.

The game featured on social networking site Facebook, the NHS Choices website and an iPhone application. It follows reports that the DoH spent tens of thousands of pounds creating iPhone apps to track alcohol intake and smoking cessation.

The NHS must find £20 billion of efficiency savings over the next few years as part of the government's austerity drive.

The government has since announced a freeze on all marketing and advertising spending, including iPhone apps. It will also review 820 of its websites after a Central Office of Information report showed £126 million was spent on web staff and development costs in 2009/10.

This report showed that NHS Choices costs £29 million each year to run. The DoH website costs £2.9 million a year.

A BMA spokeswoman said that although it was important that health campaigns encouraged healthy living, 'given the financial constraints at the moment it is vital that all resources are used effectively and provide value for money'.

The game asks players to input height and weight to calculate BMI and answer lifestyle questions. One question asks, 'Your incredible charm has worked its magic and you're on the brink of having sex with someone new. Do you use a condom?'

Players can then participate in 'challenges' to increase their transfer value by reading NHS Choices articles.

The DoH said the tools allowed the department to target hard-to-reach groups.

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