The Department of Health has merged its PR unit with that of the
NHS, creating the new board-level post of communications director. The
position is to be filled by Helen McCallum next month.
McCallum currently heads communications at the NHS Executive, the NHS’s
headquarters, reporting to the chief executive via the planning
McCallum will be replaced next year, but will oversee the work of her
The decision to merge the NHS Executive’s communications with PR for the
over-all Government department should give greater power to a single
McCallum will report to Health Department permanent secretary Chris
Kelly and oversee some 100 staff covering the NHS, public health and
social care, including social workers and the social services
The new post’s remit involves both internal and external communications
and long-term PR strategy. Media relations were previously handled by
outgoing press and publicity head Romola Christopherson, who is to
retire after over ten years in the post. Internal PR has never been been
represented within the information department before.
Issues on the Department of Health’s PR agenda include communicating the
Government’s planned abolition of GP fundholding in the NHS in favour of
primary care groups.
McCallum said: ’The challenge is to focus our activity around reaching
people whose health is poor and who are socially excluded. And, in the
area of social care, public understanding is very variable across the
country. It’s quite a sizeable job.’
She added that the merging of communications at the NHS and the Health
Department was unlikely to result in any redundancies, but might see a
reshuffling of duties.