What are the priorities of the NHS?

September 01, 2011 3:20 PM

It has been revealed that English primary care trusts and strategic health authorities have spent more than £180 million on ‘media professionals’ over the last four years. There is non-stop debate about the future of the National Health Service and how it should be funded, yet I have heard no one back up their argument by saying that NHS bodies should spend vast sums of taxpayers’ money on spin doctors. The last financial year saw a total of £44.3 million spent on public relations officials. In 2009-10, this cost to the taxpayer was a staggering £50 million.

[caption id="attachment_40079" align="alignright" width="230" caption="“The spin doctor will see you now”"][/caption]

The Daily Telegraph cites one example where Karl Milner, the director of communications for the Yorkshire and the Humber Strategic Health Authority, was paid more than £128,000 in 2009-10. By contrast, two senior staff actually involved in treating patients, the national cancer screening director and the director of patient care, were paid £106,000 and £127,000 respectively. While remembering this is just one authority, it is a damning insight into the thinking behind large parts of NHS spending.

And the disparities between organisations are stark. According to Richmond and Twickenham Primary Care Trust, their annual communications budget stands at £15,000. However, their counterparts in Solihull have allowed £1.2 million per year to be spent on communications. These examples give the impression that some NHS chiefs appear to be more interested in gaining good publicity than actually supporting care for their patients. Their priorities must be reassessed to ensure the best value for taxpayers, and the greatest care for patients.It has been revealed that English primary care trusts and strategic health authorities have spent more than £180 million on ‘media professionals’ over the last four years. There is non-stop debate about the future of the National Health Service and how it should be funded, yet I have heard no one back up their argument by saying that NHS bodies should spend vast sums of taxpayers’ money on spin doctors. The last financial year saw a total of £44.3 million spent on public relations officials. In 2009-10, this cost to the taxpayer was a staggering £50 million.

[caption id="attachment_40079" align="alignright" width="230" caption="“The spin doctor will see you now”"][/caption]

The Daily Telegraph cites one example where Karl Milner, the director of communications for the Yorkshire and the Humber Strategic Health Authority, was paid more than £128,000 in 2009-10. By contrast, two senior staff actually involved in treating patients, the national cancer screening director and the director of patient care, were paid £106,000 and £127,000 respectively. While remembering this is just one authority, it is a damning insight into the thinking behind large parts of NHS spending.

And the disparities between organisations are stark. According to Richmond and Twickenham Primary Care Trust, their annual communications budget stands at £15,000. However, their counterparts in Solihull have allowed £1.2 million per year to be spent on communications. These examples give the impression that some NHS chiefs appear to be more interested in gaining good publicity than actually supporting care for their patients. Their priorities must be reassessed to ensure the best value for taxpayers, and the greatest care for patients.

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