No more posters or leaflets

Christmas is over but we still keep being given stuff!

My CCG has just asked if I could put up a poster about something and has sent the practice about a hundred leaflets on something too. It’s not just the CCG though, the hospital and charities, and drug companies all send us posters and leaflets to put up in our waiting room.

Has anyone ever researched whether posters or leaflets in GP waiting rooms reach many patients? I have antibodies to aging posters in GP waiting rooms. I like the walls to be plain, calming and minimal. There are enough signs and notices that we can’t avoid without adding more. My own GP’s surgery has a medicines waste poster that has been there for nearly ten years. I know that because I can recall the Primary Care Trust (remember them?) producing it!

I appreciate that the modern NHS is still using fax machines but posters..and leaflets…in 2019??? We do have a website and some practices have social media feeds. We can even text patients links when we remember how. Some colleagues do this quite a bit during consultations though the removal of free texting from our computers has hindered this ability, and patient education in the process.

Even my elderly (and slightly dementing) father has his second iPad and an iPhone. He spends his life on social media and whilst I know not everyone is ‘online’ nowadays the vast majority are. And they spend heck of a lot more time not in the GP surgery, so why the demand to put up posters in our waiting rooms?

In surgeries that are run well patients don’t wait long to see their clinician. If I’m running early, usually because someone hasn’t turned up, and the patient who is also early, exclaims on being called in before their appointment time, I joke I don’t want them wearing out the chairs. Perhaps I should leave them to gaze round the room for a bit longer, but I’d have to take their phone off them for them to do that.

Even when they are stuck in the waiting room for half an hour I’m not convinced they take in the detail of the overly colourful shouty messages on many posters. Sometimes the colour contrast and font sizes are totally inadequate for anyone with sub-optimal vision or anyone who isn’t within a metre of so of it, which, will be most people.

If you’re actually feeling ill, you don’t want to look at posters. You just want to get in and out as fast as you can. If you’re there for a check up, you might have more inclination to gaze around, though this can be a bit intimidating and not very British. Even before we had smart phones to gaze non-stop at, us Brits aren’t the sort of people who crane their necks trying to take in every last poster in a GP waiting room. We’ve always preferred to look down – so perhaps that’s where the information should be, within the flooring!

We do have a practice information screen in the waiting room. It’s a 40″ LCD! It scrolls through several pages of information we want to impart, including how many bastards booked appointments but didn’t turn up last month, the fact that the chemist can help with hell of a lot more than you think and a reminder to chase your test results yourself (see here). Patients do gaze at that, much like they’re zombies. We could put the posters on there, but again, not everyone waits that long, not everyone looks at it when they do have the time, and certainly they might not see every other message that’s deemed important enough to put up there. We could readily have a feature film of rotating images if we bothered but we don’t have the seating the cinema does.

The same ‘philosophy’ applies to leaflets. In the past we’ve had cupboards of leaflets on every topic under the sun and we still get sent tonnes. My CCG loves getting them printed and sent out to us but I doubt they measure the benefit of such a cost to the public purse, or the environment.

Its 2019. If anyone wants to look something up or remember something, they do it online. There is not the demand for a leaflet on the latest campaign to raise awareness about something else. That’s what the news media is about and we don’t have enough surface or cupboard space to display or store all the leaflets everyone wants us to share and besides we have computers and printers now so I can access any information the patient in front of me might need. If I’m feeling generous I’ll print it out for them. If I’m feeling green, or they’re young I’ll just tell them where to look themselves. If they’re interested they’ll do it. If they’re not I’d be wasting paper and toner printing it for them.

So please, all do gooders out there. No more posters and no more leaflets, please. I wouldn’t say no to some more toner though!

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