Lambeth Patient Online

Lambeth Patient Online

A multi-faceted approach to a behaviour-change challenge with outstanding results.

Encouraging patients to book online.

The Brief

In 2016 the Lambeth GP Federation approached Merchant to devise and deliver a patient engagement campaign that would increase awareness and promote better use of online services such as appointment bookings, access to medical records and the ability to order repeat prescriptions online.

The Federation had successfully bid for funding for this from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund – a £50m project which aimed to help improve access and stimulate innovation in general practice.

The Federation provided a clear brief to Merchant - to tell patients how to book GP appointments online.


The Challenges

Lambeth GP Federation had commissioned research as part of its funding bid which identified patient demographics across its 47 practices, and looked at how they were currently accessing their GP. This provided a baseline for the patient engagement campaign. However, there were other challenges to overcome.

There are a number of different providers of online services to the NHS, and not all of them are seen by patients as being particularly user-friendly, which is another barrier to adoption. Although we had no control over this, we wanted to remove this barrier, build patient trust and explain how easy it is to use online services. We did this by creating a Lambeth Patient Online microsite and our campaign directed people there .

Another crucial requirement was that the GPs themselves were fully on board. We therefore had two distinct audiences and our messaging and methods had to be carefully tailored to each if the campaign was to be a success.

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What we did

The Solution 

A multi-step challenge called for a multi-channel campaign. Focused on pointing all patients to the microsite, we identified those groups within this audience that were most likely to adopt – without excluding those less likely to. Key groups included women in late pregnancy, mothers with young children, younger people who already engage widely with online services, silver surfers – a lot of whom are very internet-savvy, and young professionals.

Tactical elements of the campaign included a video aimed at these key groups and hosted on the campaign microsite. Using the strapline ‘I do it...’, the video looks at the different ways people can access GP services, with the emphasis on how easy it is to do it online. The campaign video was also distributed to all 47 practices in the federation so that they could run it on their TV screens in patient waiting rooms.

Paper bags designed for Lambeth Patient Online by Merchant Digital Agency for Branding campaign

Recognising that we had to target patients before they needed to engage with their GP, other channels included outdoor, with bus stop and on-bus ads and public telephone ads, with the message adjusted to suit the medium – for example: ‘I do it walking to work’.

Digital played a key role in patient engagement, and we used a mix of online display ads, video (we created four shorter clips of our main video for digital advertising) and social media banner ads. Via Facebook, Google and YouTube we were able to tightly define our audience, geo-bound the ads to the chosen Lambeth geo-demographic, and target people in their own environment. In each case the call to action was to visit the Lambeth Patient Online website.

Ancillary campaign elements included information leaflets, cards and pens for use in the surgery to reinforce the message and help create a ‘feel-good’ factor around the campaign.

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Engaging all audiences 

The crucial final prong to the campaign was engaging with the GPs themselves. If our campaign was designed to drive patients to the microsite so that they could access online services, each practice had to be geared up to provide those services and deal with the enquiries received. Our challenge was to engage with GP practices whose time is scarce and whose resources are often stretched to breaking point, to encourage them to embrace what could easily be seen as ‘yet another initiative’.

Recognising that we needed a vehicle for grabbing GPs’ attention, we harnessed the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund update meetings that, because the federation had been successful in securing funding, were well attended by GPs within the 47 practices. We ‘hijacked’ one of these meetings to launch Lambeth Patient Online to the GPs, and this was best attended of all the challenge fund update meetings.

Print poster by Merchant Digital Marketing Agency held by man for Lambeth

We showed an extended version of the patient video that sold to the GPs the importance of engaging with patients online. GPs are not an easy audience to persuade, but we were able to do so and they were keen to give it a try.

Participation in the campaign was optional for each practice, yet we needed full uptake if the campaign was to succeed. Following the introductory meeting, we ran a series of four training seminars designed to educate frontline staff – practice managers and receptionists. These seminars achieved 100 per cent attendance, with 80% of the 47 practices sending two or more people to a training event.

We also carried out an email campaign to the practices, sending an email every week for four weeks prior to the seminar explaining why they should attend and what it would mean to them.

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The Results


Lambeth Patient Online banner ads and video ads views by people with an IP address within Lambeth.


views of the Lambeth Patient Online promotional video on the website, Facebook and Vimeo.


total reach through Facebook advertising.


increase in the number appointments booked online.

3 times

improved proportion of all appointments booked online.

2 times

increase in the number of appointments available online.

speech mark

Working with Merchant was fantastic. Creatively they delivered very quickly and dealt with moving timelines with incredible flexibility and understanding. They just get on and deliver.”

Dr Ross Dyer-Smith

PMFC IT Lead Lambeth

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