Taking a leaf out of supermarkets’ books

It is time for GPs to learn from supermarkets. No, this organ of GP opinion has not suddenly been taken over by the DoH and the Richmond House view that the local Sainsbury’s is the true home of the GP surgery. But there is much to learn from how these large chains market themselves.

After all, why do names like Tesco come up when ministers talk about primary care delivery? Because they 'offer good value'. And how do we know that? Because the supermarkets tell us so.

And why does the public think GPs are expensive? Because the DoH tells them so or, rather, not enough has been done to rebut figures such as £120,000 or £250,000 bandied about for 'GP pay'.

The supermarket chains make massive profits but what most people remember is that baked beans are cheap this week.

A step in the right direction has been taken this week, in fact sheets sent to GPs by Wessex LMC which are already adorning the walls of surgeries to inform patients.

The useful facts about what good value GPs really represent, include the information that the average cost of a face-to-face appointment with a GP is £20, whereas the cost at a walk-in centre would be £24 or £75 if patients decided to go straight to A&E.

We also learn that about 15 per cent of the UK population sees a GP in a two-week period and that a large proportion of GP income comes from quality targets.

Unfortunately, these facts still lack the impact of a sign saying 'baked beans: 8p'.

However, there is one figure in the Wessex document that is perfect for the supermarket treatment: ‘GPs are paid less than 20p per patient per day to provide all the day-to-day care required.'

Think about Tesco's TV advert where a picture of the item and a price are all that is used to support the ‘every little helps' slogan. Simple and effective. Now think about how GPs could use the 20p fact to their advantage. Fixing the the notion that GPs cost 20p not £200,000 in the minds of the public would certainly help turn the tables.

The profession should agree a simple slogan based on this figure. Perhaps all GPs should have T-shirts or mugs bearing the legend: ‘I only cost  20p.' Or at least practice posters saying ‘this service only costs you 20p'. Although perhaps ‘I'm cheaper than a Mars Bar' might send the wrong message to one or two heartsink patients.

The DoH spin machine has been cranked up to full, but the profession has the opportunity to counter it. This means learning from the masters of marketing and not being too shy to shout about the good value of GP services.

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