NHS and local council combine to create new comms role

In an unprecedented move, the council and NHS Trust on the Isle of Wight have come together to create a role to oversee comms and engagement for both bodies.

Kirk Millis-Ward, head of comms and engagement, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
Kirk Millis-Ward, head of comms and engagement, Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Kirk Millis-Ward, head of comms and engagement at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, has been appointed to the new post of associate director, comms and engagement, at the two public-service bodies on the Isle of Wight.

He takes up the position next week and will lead the local authority and NHS communications teams on the island. 

Millis-Ward told PRWeek: "My biggest priority will be helping both organisations to highlight the enormous contribution of people working in public services on the Isle of Wight."

He added: "I don’t know of any other joint NHS and council appointments. There will be parts of the NHS where 'systems' have communications leads – these systems include local authorities, but the comms leaders probably aren’t reporting to both organisations in the same formal way I will."

Career change

Millis-Ward, a physiotherapy graduate, entered PR in 2012 after spending several years working as a journalist on local newspapers in Sussex. He describes himself as a "rehabilitated journalist and erstwhile physiotherapist" on his Twitter profile.

His first role in PR was a maternity cover contract as a senior media officer at the Association of Train Operating Companies, in 2013.

He then switched to NHS communications with a series of roles at Monitor, the health service financial regulator, where he was promoted to head of news. 

Monitor merged with the NHS Trust Development Authority to form NHS Improvement in 2016. Millis-Ward became the head of news at the new body, where he spent two years before moving to the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust in February 2018.

New challenge

Millis-Ward's move to the Isle of Wight "is a really exciting opportunity, the chance to lead two well-established teams and to help both organisations find new ways of reaching their audiences," he said.

The comms chief is "looking forward" to helping the two comms teams "work more closely together, to share their knowledge and expertise".

He added: "Public services on the island are a huge part of the local conversation and there are a wealth of stories to be told."

Millis-Ward will not be short of challenges in his new job. The Isle of Wight Council regularly features in local press stories centred on budget cuts, while the Isle of Wight NHS Trust is currently in special measures, having failed inspections by the Care Quality Commission.

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