University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust and The Walton Centre for Neurology & Neurosurgery NHS Trust have both appointed the agency’s Northern office. The agency has also been called in by two primary care trusts (PCTs) – East Lancashire and Ashton Leigh & Wigan.
The appointments follow a recent media storm around Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust when 90 hospital patients died after catching the Clostridium difficile bug while in hospital.
‘Hospital trusts are increasingly in the media spotlight, and with the introduction of patient choice, reputation management has now become a critical issue,’ said Bell Pottinger North director Vicki Baxter.
She added: ‘PCTs have now realised that they need to use co-ordinated communications strategies to reach their target audiences.’
Duffy insisted the appointments were not linked to the recent crisis at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. She said: ‘The NHS trusts have been getting more PR savvy. Now that patients can choose from one of four hospitals to go to for treatment, reputation is vital. Trusts are becoming more proactive about promoting the good news as well as crisis management.’
Primary care trusts cover GP surgeries and are the first port of call for patients looking for advice. Patients would then be referred to an NHS trust hospital to receive specialist treatment.