Department of Health set to recruit press office head

The Department of Health is looking to fill its deputy director of media relations post - eight months after the promotion of Sian Jarvis to director of communications last year.

The deputy director post is effectively the DoH's most senior media relations officer, carrying responsibility for the DoH's entire press office function.

Since Jarvis's departure the post has been handled on a temporary basis, first by the then chief press officer Lawrence Knight.

Knight quit late last year and the DoH drafted in former Scotsman political editor and Daily Telegraph lobby correspondent Jon Hibbs to take over the running of the press office on a short-term basis.

Hibbs' contract will expire in October, and he has indicated he is keen to take over the position full-time.

The job is to be opened up to external candidates in accordance with civil service protocol, with candidates subjected to the civil service recruitment board.

It is expected an appointment will be made during the summer to ensure any external appointee would be given sufficient time to serve notice.The appointee will report to Jarvis.

The hunt for a media relations chief is the latest in a series of changes to the communications function this year.

In February, the DoH announced plans to develop its own PR agency roster in isolation from the government's general COI Communications roster (PRWeek, 8 February). The creation of the 11-strong agency pool is understood to be ongoing.

In March the department started the recruitment process for a deputy director to take responsibility for its freshly created strategic communications team, ahead of a re-organisation of the NHS in April (PRWeek, 1 March).

Jarvis took the department's chief comms role (PRWeek, 21 September 2001) following the departure of Helen McCallum for the director of corporate affairs post at the Environment Agency (PRWeek, 25 May 2001).

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