Public Sector: Council hits out at NHS comms plans

A second council has criticised Government plans to overhaul NHS comms services, claiming they do not take into account the growing alliance between local health providers and councils.

Blackburn with Darwen Council director of policy and comms Tom Stannard has written to NHS chief executive David Nicholson and NHS North West chief executive Mark Ogden to raise concerns about the proposed NHS 'hub and spoke' comms model.

'In our view, it is the obvious solution to have a comms function that will mirror the growing links between the NHS and local government, when public health and the accountability for local health through "health and well-being" boards transfer to councils,' wrote Stannard.

Stannard's letter also expressed concern that while there is no 'mandated' model for the new NHS comms structure, sharing services with local authorities has already been dismissed.

Blackburn with Darwen shares a comms department with its local NHS trust, and the council has been working to forge closer links with GP groups in the region.

In a PRWeek column on 27 July, Westminster City Council comms boss Alex Aiken complained that the proposed 'hub and spoke' model seemed to be 'designed to create a new silo, distinct from local government at a time when they should be reaching out to colleagues to see how campaigns can be discharged locally'.

A DH spokesperson responded: 'Work on the future shape of comms services for the NHS is ongoing. We have agreed the need to establish a locally focused nationwide shared service for comms and engagement and are in the process of designing this with stakeholders across the NHS and local government.'

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