Deputy director of news Jon Hibbs has created a centralised newsdesk manned by six PROs. They will deal with all daily media enquires and the ‘hot topics' of the day, rather than these calls being fielded out to specialist desks.
‘Press officers on specialist desks will now have more time for proactive work for ministers. It is balancing the needs of journalists with the needs of ministers,' Hibbs said.
He added that resources on the central newsdesk - to be open from 8am to 7pm - would be kept under review.
Specialist desks in the DoH media operation include five ministerial desks covering subjects including public health and care services.
Two senior PROs have been brought in to help run the new operation. Home Office assistant director of news and strategy James Sorene has joined as news editor.
He helps oversee the overall news operation, staffed by a total of 35 PROs, including the central newsdesk.
Ben Lewis has taken control of the central newsdesk as a chief press officer. He effectively takes over from Lee Bailey, who joined the Department for Education and Skills as head of news in October (PRWeek, 26 October 2006).
At the DoH, Lewis reports to Sorene, who in turn reports to Hibbs.