Nick Herbert criticises SHA's new "propaganda" post
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has criticised a plan by the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority (SHA) to appoint a Director of Communications with a brief to sell the proposed downgrading of local hospitals.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate in Westminster Hall on Thursday 14 December, Mr Herbert highlighted the SHA's proposal to recruit a Director of Communications on a salary of over £90,000 a year - the equivalent of four newly qualified nurses' starting salaries.
Mr Herbert pointed out that the job remit includes to "deliver appropriate and timely information to the Ministerial Briefing Unit" and to "translate and communicate effectively the vision that health reform policy can transform local health systems for the benefit of the patient" - or, as Mr Herbert described it, "to propagandise".
The appointment would come at a time when local health authorities are facing growing opposition to plans to downgrade West Sussex hospitals, with over 250,000 people - 1 in 3 of the West Sussex population - already having signed petitions in support of the Princess Royal, St Richard's and Worthing and Southlands Hospitals.
It would also come at a time when more than 1,000 job losses and 100 bed closures have been announced across the local healthcare economy.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Herbert said: "At a time when NHS jobs and services are being cut across West Sussex, I think that local people will find it very difficult to understand why over £90,000 a year of taxpayers' money should be spent to persuade them to support hospital downgrading.
"People certainly want proposed decisions to be explained properly, but they also want local health authorities to listen. The formal proposals haven't even been published yet. How meaningful is the public consultation going to be?"
Notes for Editors
1. The transcript of the debate in Westminster Hall on Thursday 14 December can be found at: http://pubs1.tso.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm061214/halltext/61214h0001.htm#06121477000379