Scandal-hit hospital restructures crisis response

The 'bodies in the chapel' scandal has forced Bedford hospital to

change its PR procedures.

Hospital communications manager Caroline Parsons said the scandal

highlighted serious problems with the way PR is handled in a crisis.

The PR team - Parsons and part-time communications assistant Biana Gale

- dealt with the media barrage on their own for three days.

PROs from nearby health authority press teams were eventually drafted in

as part of an ad hoc agreement. Now, a written agreement will ensure

extra PROs are available.

The hospital's major incident plan was shown to be unsuitable for

dealing with the situation, having been drafted for incidents that

involve heavy casualties. Now any incident that could gain massive media

coverage will be treated as major.

The hierarchy has also changed. Parsons had reported to director of

service development Phil Kenmore, who reported to CEO Ken Williams, who

has since resigned.

Parsons now reports directly to acting CEO Stephen Bridge. Parsons said:

'In a major incident, the PR people need to be right there with the CEO.

The system we had was inadequate and these changes will make a major


Six administration and managerial staff in the service development team

will be trained to handle the media.

The scandal broke in January after it was revealed that corpses were

being stored on a chapel floor. Health Secretary Alan Milburn blamed

management failures.

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