Selby Council brings in health trust to run PR

Selby District Council has drafted in its local Primary Care Trust (PCT) to run its PR operation, in a move that is believed to be the first of its kind.

The move effectively means that Selby and York NHS PCT’s communications manager Lee Squire will now handle all external and internal communications for both bodies.

While based at the Trust, he will be assisted by a yet-to-be appointed press officer to cover the council, in an arrangement that will see Squire deal with media enquires ranging from hospital league tables to coalmine closures.

Squire said the move has been taken following the Audit Commission’s Comprehensive Performance Assessment of the council, which criticised communications efforts.

Since its creation seven years ago, the council has been without dedicated PR support, with communications handled by other officers and department by department.

All communications efforts will now be directed through Squire, who confirmed the deal is worth £25,000 for the PCT. However, he points out that this does include the hiring of a council PRO.

The deal will also affect the Trust’s relationship with its retained agency, Atlas PR, which, according to Squire, is now set to also assist with council matters.

Squire said a key priority was to improve promotion of business opportunities and economic regeneration in the area. This is seen as particularly vital, following last year’s announcement that the Selby mining complex is to close.

Association of Healthcare Communicators joint chair Carol Hemsley said: ‘I’ve heard of NHS organisations sharing, and councils doing the same, but never this way round.’

While broadly welcoming the sharing of good practice at a local level, she added: ‘My only concern is if communications support is stretched, and if this is not for partnership support but to save money.’

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