Give us ER…not PR

The Press and Journal newspaper has put its head above the parapet by hitting out at the PR machine in the public sector, following the Scottish Labour Party's attack on the money spent on NHS communications across Scotland.

Calling for more money to be directed instead to front-line health care, Scottish Labour claims that £3.9 million said to be spent on NHS communications across Scotland, on more than 120 press and media staff, could pay for hiring 150 nurses. The spend was revealed through Freedom of Information requests to each health board in Scotland.

In a trenchant leader piece, the Press and Journal declares: “It is, of course, just spin to highlight what alternatives the money could be used for when the reality is that any cash saved will not be spent elsewhere. The parlous state of the public finances means that savings will be made, never to be spent again. Or at least not for a long time.

“So, 120 press officers could be seen as excessive, even although the scrutiny of the performance of the NHS and other public bodies will intensify in the years to come as budget cuts begin to have an effect on services.

“Perhaps the solution for the NHS and other organisations is to adopt a different strategy for dealing with the media and the public.

“What seems like the current default strategy of procrastination and obfuscation adopted in the face of legitimate inquiries, including freedom of information requests, could be replaced with openness and honesty, which is cheaper and may even require far fewer PR practitioners.”

Former Scottish MSP, journalist Dorothy-Grace Elder, also attacks the PR practitioners in her column in the Scottish Daily Express, and homes in on Ayrshire and Arran NHS which has a communications staff of nine – costing the taxpayers £239,000 a year.

Says Dorothy-Grace: “The Scottish Daily Express revealed how a widow claimed her husband died in agony in that board's Cross-Gracehouse Hospital, after 'barbaric' failure to give him pain killers.

“Many spinners produce useless puff newspapers, fluffy Pravdas, while fending off question on issues like C Diff. Consultants are virtually gagged, told to refer media questions through some 'communications' department. If MSP Jackie Baillie is sick of health spin, so are all journalists.”