London NHS wastes £13 million on public relations

The NHS in London spent almost £13 million on public relations in the last three years – enough to recruit 600 nurses.London NHS wastes £13 million on public relationsSome £9.7 million went on press officers’ salaries at hospitals and primary care trusts (PCTs), while private PR companies were paid a further £3 million.

Critics called for “medical doctors not spin doctors”, pointing to longer waiting times and cancelled operations.

The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to all 33 London hospitals, in addition to the capital’s primary care trusts and NHS London.

The research revealed some 82 press officers on the public payroll, with an average salary of £37,278.

By contrast, in 1981 there were only eight press officers working in the entire NHS.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, said: “Far too many patients experience longer waiting times, cancelled operations and standards of care below what they deserve.”

“These figures are a concerning example of the cost of NHS PR – it is sadly patients paying the price.”

“Many will ask whether this funding would be better spent on medical doctors, rather than spin doctors.”

NHS North West London handed PR firm the London Communications Agency almost £1 million for “communications and engagement work” on a consultation programme.

The organisation said the value of the consultation was “incalculable”.

And Tower Hamlets PCT paid four different PR companies a total of £353,391 over the three year period.

£13 million could have bought:

  • 600 nurses on a minimum starting salary of £21,176
  • 3,250 hip replacements at cheapest estimated cost to NHS of £4,000
  • Potentially-life saving neuroblastoma treatment for 200 children with cancer at £65,000 each
  • A single patient staying overnight in hospital for 118 years, based on UCLH’s estimate of a £300/night cost

Many smaller spends on private PR firms were dubbed wasteful by critics too.

Chelsea Children’s Hospital paid Eureka Marketing Solutions £10,620 to design a logo and “branded merchandise”.

Meanwhile the Royal Free Hospital Hampstead paid a PR company £12,427 for advice on handling the UK’s first face transplant.

This was despite employing five press officers of its own – with a total wage bill of about £198,000.

Dr John Lister, of pressure group London Health Emergency, said: “I find it hard to explain this sort of spending.

“Sadly the default setting of NHS managers seems to be bringing in private consultants to do jobs staff should be doing.  It’s alarming – most people would regard it a total waste of money.”

Meanwhile the Royal Marsden Hospital paid a firm £1,500 – to “print news clippings following the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge”.

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