The Government has faced attacks in the media over the number of recent flu deaths, the axing of a public information campaign and vaccine supplies running out.
DH director of comms Sian Jarvis also denied suggestions that the DH’s comms had been affected by budget cuts. ‘Our in-house operation is as robust as ever. In no way have we been limited in resources,’ she said.
But The Guardian’s health correspondent Denis Campbell this week criticised the DH comms effort in the wake of the flu crisis, after the department relied on a series of press briefings over Christmas and recycling last year’s ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ hygiene advertising campaign.
Campbell told PRWeek: ‘The lack of preparation was foolhardy, they have been negligent and slow-footed. I think that the media have been doing the job the Government should have been doing – by communicating with at-risk groups with news stories.’
Jarvis responded to Campbell’s comments by saying: ‘Our preparations for winter and the flu season are robust.
‘As every year we launch the seasonal flu vaccine drive in September, thisyear with a media press briefing on 30 September and a round of media interviews. The interim chief medical officer also wrote out to every GPadvising them on the arrangements for calling in at-risk patients to have their new seasonal flu vaccine. It also highlighted the arrangements for vaccinating pregnant women.
‘This activity has been supported by extensive online communications to the public as well as through over 100 consumer magazine titles. As soon as the cold weather arrived we took the opportunity of reminding the public about how to prepare themselves and have held a number of press briefings for journalists, providing them with access to all the clinical experts, further demonstrating our commitment to open and transparent access to the latest information.’