How Asthma UK campaigned to stop unfair asthma prescription charges

Asthma UK works to stop asthma attacks and, ultimately, to cure asthma by funding world-leading research and scientists, campaigning for change and supporting people with asthma to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

Asthma UK has a huge untapped warm audience with over 2 million visitors to their ecosystem each year. To put into context the size of the opportunity, there are 5.4 million people with asthma, translating to 1 in 5 households affected by asthma.

The problem

Asthma UK wanted to call on the UK Government to review legislation around prescription charges. Currently, people with asthma have to pay for their prescriptions, while people with other long term conditions, like diabetes, do not.

The law around conditions exempt from prescription charges was created 50 years ago and has only been updated once since, in 2009, to introduce an exemption for people who have cancer.

Asthma UK wanted to mobilize people with asthma to support the campaign by asking them to sign a petition, write to their MP and encourage people to support financially.

The solution:

The first integrated campaign run by the organization and a team was pulled together with a wide range of stakeholders. There were many different considerations, including audience, decision makers and supporters.


This was defined as people with asthma who are currently paying for prescriptions and people personally affected by asthma (including family and friends) who are outraged about the unfairness of the charge. The focus was particularly on students and those on low incomes.


The ultimate decision maker was the Secretary of State (SOS) for Health & Social Care, who would be influenced by the Health Select Committee MPs, Special Advisers and health inequality key opinion leaders.


Business rules were introduced so people on the prescription charges journey would not receive any other communications from Asthma UK. There would be a ratio of three engagement emails to every financial ask with the focus being on engagement, and Asthma UK adopted a less formal organisational voice sending emails from a named individual.

In terms of the implementation, acquisition was a key focus of the campaign with supporters being recruited from multiple sources and it was important to understand how the individual channels performed. Tracking parameters were used to measure where the supporters were coming from.

Marketing automation was used and there were different automations per recruitment source to easily compare performance of open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribed.

Additionally, a series of conversion tests took place using Google Optimize to drive up both the number and volume of donations.

Asthma UK Petition

The results

Asthma UK had a target of 18,000 petition signatures and achieved over 75,374. When the campaign launched, the email list had 46,197 subscribers. 14 weeks later that had increased by 30,321 subscribers (66%). 302 people gave a cash gift and 18 people went on to set up a direct debit. 3,926 emails were sent to MPs. The Labour Party included a manifesto pledge to abolish prescription charges in England.

At Engaging Networks, we’re proud to work with great charities like Asthma UK to improve people’s lives and make lasting change. Many thanks to Asthma UK for collaborating on this content. To learn more about this great cause visit their website.

Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.