Case Study

Diabetes UK and Root to Branch: Fight for Flash – Using Engaging Networks to Create Adaptable Email to MP Actions


This case study was drafted by Keira Roth, UK Business Development Director

What is Flash? Not something moving extraordinarily fast but rather something that can change people’s lives. Flash is a modern technology for people with type one diabetes; it monitors blood sugar levels without having to do a finger prick. The positive benefits of Flash are many: because it is considerably less invasive, it means that people are more likely to test more. The implications of this are that people with type one diabetes are able to monitor their condition better. This ultimately leads to a reduction in complications and hospital admissions.

The Problem

Flash costs around £120 a month per patient and was made available on the NHS in November 2017 to specific groups of patients. This was taken up in Wales and Northern Ireland, who started prescribing Flash to patients. However it was left to local decision makers whether or not to follow the recommended guidelines and it became a postcode lottery. For everyone to be able to access Flash who needed it, 200 Clinical Commissioning Groups and 14 Health Boards needed to agree to prescribe Flash.

Only very few people who needed it actually had access to this important health technology. Diabetes UK wanted everybody who could benefit from Flash and met the criteria to have access on prescription. Unfortunately, CCGs often came up with their own criteria, which could be different to a neighbouring area.


Initially, Diabetes UK asked supporters to write to their CCGs. This had limited success and found the target contacts to be fairly unresponsive. For this reason Diabetes UK concentrated their efforts at MPs instead. MPs are more accustomed to being lobbied and so via an email-to-target action, we asked them to attend an event in Parliament, and to contact their CCGs directly. Diabetes believed that this would appeal to MPs as it was ‘hyper local’ and related to their constituents directly.

People with Flash told Diabetes UK that Flash had changed their lives, so Diabetes felt that they needed to make this action stand out.

“It’s a Bloody Pain”

Working with Glyn Thomas (Root to Branch), Diabetes UK wanted to create ‘finger prick’ calculator. This would calculate the number of finger pricks someone with type one diabetes had done in their lives. They wanted that number to be imposed into the emails to the MPs and MSPs, and also onto a shareable image. Finally, Diabetes UK also wanted a totaliser on the page to add up the total of finger pricks done by all action takers.

More Technical Twists

Clinical Commissioning group boundaries are not the same as MP constituencies, so the content within the email needed to be personalised depending on whether or not the Clinical Commissioning Groups in the local area were or were not already offering Flash. Different Clinical Commissioning Groups within an MP’s constituency may have different prescribing rules regarding Flash. This further highlighted the postcode lottery; an MP may get messages from two people, one in an area whose CCG provides Flash, and another who does not. Root to Branch used additional data lookups which inserted a variable paragraph about Flash availability which added another level of personalisation. Finally, the email invited the MP or MSP to an event in Parliament.

Share Functionality

The team at Diabetes UK produced 3 images for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Each had a space that inserted the all-important personalised finger prick number and a separate script took the data from the hidden field and placed it onto the relevant share image. This used some interesting technical work-arounds to overcome challenges such as how Facebook caches data and makes it tricky to re-create new images, which they needed in order to change the personal finger prick number.

Instagram was only presented as an option for mobile and the image was shared directly through the app on their phone, making a seamless experience for the campaigner. There was a fallback option for supporters who decided to not share their personal data, and the image shared the aggregate finger prick number from the totaliser.

Results in Numbers

2700 people took the action
400 shares on social media
55 MPs wrote to their CCGs (that they were aware of)
3 MPs set up their own petitions
One MP used the number of finger pricks in a speech
Great feedback from MPs

Offline Activity

As with many great campaigns, alongside the digital work was a huge amount of local action, such as meeting with CCGs directly, attending council meetings and asking questions. Unexpected media attention came when Prime Minister Theresa May met with Donald Trump and was photographed with her Flash on her arm. A lot of people were curious about what it was, and so the Flash campaign got a considerable amount of press coverage due to this.

Not a Flash in the Pan Action!

It was announced on World Diabetes Day that the postcode lottery for Flash would end and Flash would be available to thousands more who needed it. Funding would come directly from NHS England. Although there still are people who are not able to access Flash on prescription, there has been an increase from around 2% to 12%, which was a huge win for Diabetes UK and those whose lives could be transformed by Flash.

A Big Thank You

At Engaging Networks, we’re proud to provide tools to some of the world’s leading nonprofits and charities. It’s our goal to help you succeed. This campaigning win for Diabetes UK isn’t just a win for the organization but for diabetics across the UK. Many thanks to Diabetes UK, Keira Roth and Root To Branch for sharing this tremendous work and case study. To learn more about Diabetes UK visit their website or watch the video below.