CIPR defends NHS communications after Taxpayers' Alliance attack

The CIPR has hit back at the Taxpayers' Alliance for attacking NHS communications spending as "unnecessary" and "wasteful".

NHS: spending on non-frontline staff has been criticised by the Taxpayers' Alliance
NHS: spending on non-frontline staff has been criticised by the Taxpayers' Alliance

In a report published yesterday highlighting non-frontline investment across the health service, the TPA claimed that £34m was spent on 826 PR staff in 2013.

Its CEO, Jonathan Isaby, criticised the expenditure, stating "taxpayers expect the health budget to be spent on real doctors, not spin doctors".

The comments were rebuffed by CIPR president-elect and former NHS communications director Sarah Pinch. 

She said it was important for the NHS "to engage the public and to tackle healthcare issues", adding "this cannot be effectively achieved without professional public relations support".

The report, which also highlighted spending on other roles such as equality and diversity staff, claimed that "a large disparity" in the size of PR teams between health trusts showed "a large PR team is an unnecessary expense".

But Pinch claimed handling media enquiries, FOI requests and "facilitating open and transparent communications with the public" were examples of PR playing a "vital role" in the effectiveness of the service. 

"Blood and organ donor drives, flu vaccinations, stop smoking campaigns and many other examples of NHS public relations activity both promote and support the successful tackling of public health issues,"  she said.

"This is not ‘spin’ – this is life-changing and lifesaving work, which actively reduces the burden of healthcare on the public purse."

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