Former NHS comms chief sets up as freelance consultant

Chloe Watson has stepped down from her role as head of comms and engagement at North London Partners in Health and Care, which includes 28 NHS and local authority organisations, to go freelance.

Chloe Watson has left the NHS to set up as a freelance comms expert
Chloe Watson has left the NHS to set up as a freelance comms expert

Watson has also relocated from London to Newcastle upon Tyne, where she is now operating as a comms, engagement and campaigns consultant.

Prior to going freelance this month, Watson spent a decade in comms roles across the NHS.

These included spending more than four years at NHS England, where she was the comms lead for mental health. Prior to that she worked as comms and marketing manager at NHS South London Commissioning Support Unit.

Watson has also worked on major change programmes for Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation Trust; Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust; and West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Making the move

Speaking to PRWeek, she explained why she had decided to go it alone.

"I was in the NHS in various guises for over a decade, working nationally, regionally and locally, across different organisations. I just fancied putting life first and trying to address the work-life balance, and really felt that I could offer more as a freelancer."

She added: "Sometimes you get stuck in the politics of an organisation rather than just being able to deliver really great work."

Watson is now focusing on "purpose-driven" projects where she can "make a difference".

She said: "I don’t want to completely confine myself to the public sector because there are great things happening in the private sector."

Watson’s time in the NHS gave her experience of "working for one of the world’s most recognised and respected brands."

She commented: "I’ve worked on some really high-profile things like national mental health policy [and] online GP appointments – stuff that people really care about – so I’m quite good at telling the story in a way that is relatable to the public."

Trend

Watson is the latest example of a senior NHS comms professional electing to leave the organisation.

Earlier this year Rachel Royall left her job as comms director at NHS Digital to join IBM as comms director at its UK healthcare and life sciences team.

Other departures in recent months include Caroline Welch leaving NHS Property Services, where she was a senior press and public affairs manager, to go to Homes England; Louise Thompson quitting her job as head of communications for nursing at NHS Improvement to work for Unipart Logistics; and Kristina Wilcock, assistant head of external comms at NHS Digital, taking voluntary redundancy and launching her own agency.

And last month Jon Salmon left Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, where he was comms manager, to join health tech specialist Highland Marketing as an account director.

Watson described the NHS as a "bit of a pressure cooker", but described its comms staff as "a resilient bunch, because it mostly attracts people who care about working there. You don’t work for the NHS for the money, you do it because you want to make a difference."


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