Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Public relations: bad for our health

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I’ve been making a number of FOI requests as part of the research for my book. One of the responses from the Department of Health was picked up by Tony Collins at Computer Weekly who writes an excellent blog and has probably saved the taxpayer many tens of millions of pounds by his inquisitive digging into government IT projects.

The FOI shows that the Department of Health has increased the number of its press officers (telling us what they department wants us to know) from 26 in 2006/7 to 31 in 2008/9. During the same period the number of FOI officers (what we actually want to know) was just 8. There is also a stark divide between resources with around £3 million spent on press relations and marking but just £300,000 on freedom of information.

A breakdown of the total publicity and advertising budget reveals:

    Financial Year Actual Spend £ million)

  • 2008-09 = 62.6
  • 2007-08 = 50.3
  • 2006-07 = 40.7

But as Tony Collins says, that’s only part of the story. That doesn’t include money spent by NHS Connecting for Health on PR firms such as Porter Novelli, Fishburn Hedges, Good Relations and its parent Bell Pottinger.

We’re not an informed electorate if we can’t access the raw information. Too much public money is being spent selling policies as if they’re products and not enough goes into giving us the information we need to make informed decisions about important (and costly) public services.