Local strategy key for incoming NHS comms head Simon Enright

NHS England's incoming head of comms Simon Enright has been charged with helping use his experience in driving local engagement to promote "openness, honesty and transparency".

NHS: "Must be really open, honest and transparent"
NHS: "Must be really open, honest and transparent"

Enright will start his role in October, having led the BBC's local TV output for the past seven months and working for the broadcaster for 16 years.

He replaces Roger Davidson, who held the role on an interim basis after the departure of Colin Douglas. Davidson will return to his role as head of media.

Enright’s arrival follows a major shake-up of the comms operation in line with the wider Government-led restructure of the health service.

It also follows intense scrutiny of the NHS and criticism in the Francis Report, which called for greater openness after major failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey pointed to Enright’s recent BBC experience as key in the newly devolved health system.

Calling the job "arguably the biggest comms role in public service", Kelsey said: "What impressed was the way Simon worked on developing strategy around local TV, and helping the BBC engage with a new local breed of stations.

"One big challenge is respecting the devolution of decision making to local levels of the NHS. One of the big jobs particularly around comms is about those local NHS organisations."

Kelsey claimed that though the NHS had been the subject of "vilification" in the national media, he acknowledged that there "are real issues that need to be properly debated".

"The challenge for Simon and us is to recognise that we have to be really open, honest and transparent about the challenges we face nationally and locally," added Kelsey.

"We have a very strong and important message to communicate about delivering high quality care across all communities and I am hoping Simon will form a strategy to develop that message across these communities and media."

Earlier this year PRWeek revealed that NHS England was set to almost double the size of its media relations team as it counters negative coverage.

This is part of a wider PR restructuring under the new system in which GPs would take on the role of on-the-ground spokespeople.

Enright said: "It is great to be joining NHS England just as it starts to open up more information and make the NHS more transparent. It is a really noble aim that has already started making things better for patients.

"As a journalist at the BBC, being honest and trying to get at the truth is what I’ve always tried to do. That’s what I would like to continue to do in this new role."

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