Healthcare: At a Glance - All hands to the pump at the Royal Marsden

- Is this in the wake of last week's hospital fire?

Correct. While the main challenge was clearly evacuating patients and staff safely from London's Royal Marsden cancer hospital, the establishment's high profile meant the PR team was also handling four calls per minute as the fire still raged.

- Why is the Marsden such an important hospital?

Because it is Europe's largest cancer centre, with more than 40,000 people seen at its sites in Chelsea and Sutton in Surrey each year.

- Did it have any agency help?

None. The three-strong in-house team consists of PR and comms manager Felicity Bull plus two PROs - Liz Garton and Naomi Wright. Bull was off-site at the time of the fire but returned immediately.

- What was coverage like?

In a word, blanket. The story topped news bulletins and front pages. Quite apart from the UK print and broadcast interest, international outlets covering the conflagration included The Irish Times, Taiwan News and Radio New Zealand.

- How did the Marsden team deal with the avalanche of calls?

Calls about the fire itself were directed to the London Fire Brigade press office. The Royal Brompton hospital, to which many Marsden patients were transferred in the wake of the blaze, also helped with the media relations effort. Jo Thomas is director of comms and Joanne Parish head of media relations at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust.

- What did the Marsden team prioritise?

Press releases were updated regularly on the Marsden website, giving the latest information about the fire and its effects and the welfare of patients. The hospital's messaging - including the fact two patients had been in operating theatres when the fire broke out, and that people were safely evacuated to shops, pubs and a church - was consistent across media outlets.

- What about spokespeople?

The PR team presented the Marsden trust's chief executive Cally Palmer as the single, authoritative point of information for media statements and briefings before last weekend. Medical director Martin Gore and chief nurse Shelley Dolan have taken over more media duties this week, but Palmer was seen as the key contact in the initial aftermath of the fire.

Further information www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk.

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