Viz - who made headlines around campaigning for better PPE (personal protective equipment) provision and was on the cover of Vogue magazine in September - made the comment in a Twitter thread about what changes hospital workers want "that would make coming to work so much better".
On this note, remove anyone with the title "Communications Manager".— Dr Meenal Viz (@meenalsworld) December 28, 2020
If a registrar has to arrange the rota for an entire department on top of their job......we don't need to pay someone £30k to update the hospital Twitter feed.
Comms professionals were quick to express their dismay at her comments. Antony Tiernan, director of communications and engagement at the London Ambulance Service, responded:
Hey Meenal, it makes me sad to see your post. NHS communicators play a vital role in the service. I’d be v happy to chat with you about the issues you’ve had previously, in case my input could help reassure you etc. Let me know. Thanks. Ant— Antony Tiernan (@AntonyTiernan) December 29, 2020
NHS Confederation director of comms Daniel Reynolds gave a similar response:
One of the most ill informed comments I’ve seen in a while. And that’s saying something on here. So disappointing that you would feel the need to devalue professional colleagues who are playing their part.— Daniel Reynolds (@DanielReynolds4) December 28, 2020
A number of Twitter users pointed out the important work undertaken by comms professionals in the NHS, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis:
...aids with engaging the workforce and ensuring retention. A nurse is more likely going to work at a Trust that provides all these things than not.— Tom Lawrence (@TomFromComms) December 28, 2020
So please do not give me the cost cutting nonsense when comms professionals cut costs from a workforce standpoint.
Irony here is that comms people across the UK public sector sysyem did actually go knocking on doors to reach some people when restrictions were put in place, those who do not visit digital channels/websites because they know good communication can and is proven to save lives!— PRKezza (@PRKezza) December 28, 2020
Others who don't work in comms, including doctors themselves, also took issue with the comment from Viz, who has 12,000 Twitter followers:
Comms is the key to delivering big change in humans and society. We see this in retail through clever marketing. Your pinned tweet is about you being a change maker at @voguemagazine - this is comms at best upping your profile to battle the change you want— Dr Sandeep Bansal (@iDrSunny) December 28, 2020
Khadir Meer, chief operating officer and deputy CEO of the London Ambulance Service, added:
NHS comms folk are a crucial part of the NHS family. Their work literally saves lives (ie organ donation awareness) and they help keep our staff informed and engaged. Thank you to every NHS communicator for what you do, especially over the last year #NHScomms https://t.co/22GEvAnMSy— Khadir Meer (@KhadirMeer) December 29, 2020
Viz later responded to the criticism:
And no slight intended to you. I am only interested in assessing why some people spend company time policing the Twitter feeds of doctors. And at critical times, trying to keep us from voicing our concerns. Not just me, either.— Dr Meenal Viz (@meenalsworld) December 28, 2020
A note to all comms managers who've piled on:— Dr Meenal Viz (@meenalsworld) December 28, 2020
Yes, public comms are important.
I've been contacted by bereaved families who are unhappy with hospital comms teams. Doctors and nurses had their social media policed for innocuous stuff. During a pandemic, not a good spend of time.
So I'm not allowed to complain? Or raise my concerns? This seems to be a consistent theme. I have very specific concerns. I am not raising an issue about public communications.— Dr Meenal Viz (@meenalsworld) December 28, 2020
It's my suggestion that if we have enough resources for people to look at Twitter profiles of doctors during a pandemic, we should have enough resources to take away rota duties from registrars. That's my opinion. It's constructive, it's not an attack on your person.— Dr Meenal Viz (@meenalsworld) December 28, 2020
Together with her husband, Dr Nishant Joshi, Viz filed for judicial review in the High Court after noticing a mismatch between the guidance on PPE from the UK government and that from the World Heath Organisation.
The couple were named among the Football Association's 'Lionhearts' - its list of everyday heroes - for their work around PPE and the coronavirus. Viz was pregnant while working 12-hour shifts for the first half of 2020.
When the pandemic started, Dr. Meenal Viz and Dr. Nishant Joshi recognised our amazing healthcare workers needed better protection. They have campaigned tirelessly for change since and made a huge difference ??— England (@England) December 17, 2020
Today we welcome them to our squad of #Lionhearts! pic.twitter.com/jGrnLwWIVo
PRWeek contacted Viz via Twitter to ask if she would like to respond to the criticism. She provided the following comment on Tuesday 5 January: "I'm most grateful to PRWeek for featuring me in this excellent and detailed article. I'm even more grateful to PRWeek for kindly offering to donate £250 to The Healthcare Workers Foundation."
This article was updated on 5 January