Public Sector: Department of Health proposes 'hub and spoke' comms model

A significant new structure could be put in place to handle NHS comms, as the health service moves to a more decentralised model.

A briefing note issued earlier this month by the Department of Health proposes a new 'hub and spoke' model for NHS comms.

The model would support primary care trust clusters, emerging consortia and the NHS Commissioning Board, among others.

It is based on local teams that draw on 'good understanding of local context'. These would then be support-ed by a nationwide network of specialist hubs to provide additional back-up in areas such as marketing, digital, engagement, media relations and production.

However, LGComms national chair David Holdstock stated that this is a 'worrying development', suggesting it will make it harder for collaboration between public sector communicators.

NHS director of comms Colin Douglas said: 'The key thing is about how we get local public sector comms teams providing support to commissioning consortia and PCTs.

'These healthcare groups would expect to be working very closely with comms teams in other local public sector organisations. We are still in development of this model.'

The plans have been put forward to health experts to get their views. NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson is said to be supportive.

HOW I SEE IT - ANDREW HARRISON, DIRECTOR, HANOVER

The idea of local comms teams servicing multiple NHS organisations is sensible. It matches the NHS reorganisation and, potentially, it makes a flexible resource of the best comms talent available to the whole NHS.

Government plans to publish mountains of local clinical performance data also mean the NHS needs good local comms more than ever.

It could learn a lot from established agencies, and over time there is no reason why social enterprises and more tenders for local agency support could not emerge.

The new teams will need to be mindful of conflicts of interest, in case they end up representing both sides of a hot local issue.

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