Sian Jarvis defends Department of Health's comms unit

The Department of Health's director of comms has stated she has 'complete faith' in her comms unit, amid suggestions that Downing Street parachuted in media help.

Sian Jarvis: ‘complete faith’ in comms team
Sian Jarvis: ‘complete faith’ in comms team

Two trusted aides from Number 10 – health adviser Sean Worth and press officer Abbie Sampson – were seconded to the department earlier this month to help Health Secretary Andrew Lansley with his NHS reforms.

Speaking to PRWeek, Sian Jarvis said: ‘We wanted some help with our listening events. We wanted to strengthen work talking to all media and stakeholders. It took a lot of work. It’s not because there was a weakness in the PR team.’

She also denied Downing Street has been more interfering in the DH’s comms work than the previous administration. ‘I would say not,’ said Jarvis. ‘Our job as the civil service is to work professionally to get the best for the ministers. I believe both administrations res-pected the civil service and know how to work with it. It’s a very positive relationship.’

Jarvis added that Sampson was mostly working on creating the ‘right alignment’ bet-ween civil service, NHS and Number 10 messaging.

But she preferred to speak about her department’s forthcoming Change4Life summer campaign, aimed at improving children’s diets. The Really Big Summer Adventure is being launched in July to run during the summer holidays.

The DH initially briefed PRWeek that it had set up a deal with Asda for it to be the summer campaign’s retail partner, but subsequently stated that the retailer was only ‘considering becoming a sponsor’.

Jarvis also revealed that Freud Communications has been reappointed for the Change4Life brief for another six months.

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