Plans for a centralised 'hub and spoke' model, revealed by PRWeek (17 June, 2011) were knocked back at the second hurdle by the NHS Commissioning Board Authority.
The planned NHS Communications and Engagement Service model was designed to ensure comms kept up with a restructure of healthcare in the UK, in which GPs would have greater control over services.
One of a number of commissioning support services, the model would have seen a single centralised comms group offering support to locally based teams. These hubs would then have provided additional back-up in areas such as marketing, digital and media relations.
However, the plans were rejected by GPs after critics claimed that the proposed model failed to take into account the increasing role of local authorities within health provision.
Welcoming the board's decision, LG Communications secretary Alex Aiken called the plans 'not radical enough' and said they would have 'added an extra layer of bureaucracy'.
John Underwood, executive director of Freshwater and director of Health Communications Research, was more supportive of the plans.
However, he warned that something would need to be in place by April 2013 - when NHS reforms are fully rolled out.
He added: 'I suspect now that the plan will be to create something that is quite demonstrably local and regional, rather than national.'
A Commissioning Board Authority spokesman said efforts would now be made to develop an alternative model that will 'keep a more local focus'.