Exclusive: NHS to increase PR spend in 2014/15 by up to 38%

NHS organisations are on course to increase spending on public relations and communications staff by up to 38% in 2014/15, according to analysis by GP.

NHS to increase PR spend in 2014/5 by up to 38% Pic: Jason Heath Lancy
NHS to increase PR spend in 2014/5 by up to 38% Pic: Jason Heath Lancy

The analysis is based on figures provided by health minister Dr Daniel Poulter in response to Labour health minister Andrew Gwynne and cover spending between April and November in the 2014/15 financial year.

Mr Gwynne asked how much regulator Monitor, NHS England, Public Health England and the CQC spent on public relations and communications staff in each year since 2010 and from 2014 to date.

NHS England to spend 38% more on PR in 2014/15

NHS England, including NHS Improving Quality, spent £4,468,361 in 2013/14 and a projected £6,146,029 in 2014/15, an increase of 38%. The projection is based on whether the rate of current 2014/15 spend continues.

An NHS England spokesman said: 'The NHS England communications team has a crucial role to play in bringing information to the public on how the NHS is performing.'

It added NHS England is a new organisation and the communications team took time to form.  As well as taking on a key national responsibility, the team delivers the communication functions previously provided by 10 former strategic health authorities and some of the functions previously performed by more than 150 PCTs.

The answer says Monitor spent £1,066,790 in 2013/14 on PR and communications staff expenditure. The figure for April to November was £1,223,775. GP originally calculated that if spend continued at this rate in 2014/15, it would be £1,835,662 (72% up).

However, a Monitor spokesman said the actual figures submitted showed spend was £1,066,790 in 2013 and £1,223,775 in 2014 to November. If this continued to the end of the year, it would be £1,335,027 (up 25%).

A Monitor spokesman said: 'As a statutory body Monitor has a duty to help patients and the general public understand how the NHS works and how it is performing.

'Monitor’s communications team has grown to allow it to deal with the extra work that Parliament asked the regulator to do on behalf of patients, through the Health and Social Care Act, 2012.'

Public Health England spent £2,888,000 in 2013/14 and a projected £3,484,500 in 2014/15, an increase of 21%.

Lis Birrane, director of communications at Public Health England, said: ‘The increase in communications staff spend for 2014/15 is largely due to staff being brought in-house after the termination of agency contracts which existed prior to PHE’s formation in April 2013, resulting in significant efficiency savings for the taxpayer. The team provides a 24/7 service.’

The CQC spent £1,039,669 in 2013/14 and a projected £1,170,292 in 2014/15, an increase of 13%.

Chris Day, CQC director of engagement, said: 'More than half of CQC’s communications budget is dedicated to how we engage with the public locally. Information from the public is important in helping us to understand and act on concerns about health and social care services. Local communication also ensures that the public has timely and accessible information about our view of local services.'

The CQC disputed the 13% figure. It said it was very unlikely that the final spend for the year would be much, if any, higher than this year. It added project spend was not even throughout the year, so it was impossible to make a simple calculation.

The figures do show, however, that the CQC spent £568,951 in 2010/11 - £211,244 less than the current 2014/15 figure.

Shadow health minister Mr Gwynne said: 'Jeremy Hunt is splashing the cash on spinners despite the NHS clearly being in a poorer state than when his government took over. He is desperate to talk about anything but the problems derived directly from their top-down reorganisation.

'I hope he will be prioritising front line services over the next few months.'

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Note: This story has been changed after Monitor provided figures which differ to Hansard.

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