It’s the stuff of dreams. Or more accurately, nightmares. You’re at work, you’ve remembered everything you need, ready to launch into another successful working day; computer switched on, posh coffee sitting on the desk, papers arranged. Then you look down. You’re in your boxer shorts having forgot to put your trousers on! Fashion disaster.

Our forgetful ‘boxer shorts man’ has become a well-known figure around Leeds appearing on bus adverts, bus shelters, in health centres, and on social media. This vibrant Yorkshire city is not suffering from an outbreak of workplace clothing amnesia however – instead our #ForgetfulFriend is highlighting something much more prevalent and serious than a bit of bare-legged embarrassment.

#ForgetfulFriend is a new high impact, thought-provoking campaign raising awareness of a major headache for GPs that is costing the NHS millions of pounds every year – missed appointments. Every month in the Leeds West area where our campign has been set up, 7,500 appointments to see the GP are missed every month. In a time when the NHS is struggling to meet all the increasing demands of patient care this is a huge waste of time and money for our hard-pressed health service.

Research carried out by the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) with 18 GP practices between January and April 2015 shows that the most common reason for missing a medical appointment is that the person forgot (37.6%).

We worked with NHS Leeds West CCG to design the #ForgetfulFriend campaign to encourage local residents to take steps to remember their GP appointments and to cancel appointments they cannot make, or no longer need. We branded the campaign, produced marketing material for GP surgeries, placed lots of adverts on buses and bus shelters and ran a public awareness event. Using #forgetfulfriend ‘boxer shorts man’, we encouraged people to share their forgetful stories on social media, and name and shame their forgetful friends too.

Figures from NHS England suggest that more than 12 million GP appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing in excess of £162 million per year. Dr Gordon Sinclair, Chair of NHS Leeds West CCG, said: “At the heart of this fun campaign is the very important fact that reducing the number of missed GP appointments will mean that more people can get the help they need from their GP, quickly. Approximately 7,500 GP appointments are missed every month in the Leeds West area, and with busy lifestyles and many priorities to juggle, it’s easy to forget an appointment.”

This was one of those great campaigns to work on where we were able to get over a hugely important message to the local community in a fun, accessible and easily understandable way. A quick tour of #ForgetfulFriend on Twitter sees Touch join local NHS colleagues in some trouser-dropping tomfoolery but there was more to this than just grabbing attention and gaining interest.

What it does all show is that a simple and clear message that hits home with the intended audience, and which compels them to act via a friendly and supportive ‘nudge’, can have a big impact in changing behaviour. In this way, budgets spent on social marketing, based on thorough research and gaining an understanding of people’s actions, can produce a very worthwhile return on investment. Having seen the impact in Leeds West, we would be interested in This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to other health sector or not-for-profit colleagues about rolling out the campaign or adapting the message for other audiences. We know our approach works and would like to make it work for you.

Further information on the campaign is available by visiting here.


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