NHS bosses seek £90k ‘spin doctor’

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NHS bosses have been criticised after launching a recruitment drive for a £90,000-a-year “spin doctor”.

NHS Lothian wants to replace its outgoing director of communications to lead its press team and other PR duties.

Patient groups said the taxpayers’ money would have been better spent on front line staff, with some citing it as an opportunity to make cuts at management level.

However, the organisation pointed out that the salary of between £64,000 and £87,000 was below the going rate for many in the private sector.

It is also significantly less than other similar public roles attract, such as tram firm TIE’s communications director, Mandy Haeburn-Little, who earns more than £120,000.

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “The NHS and Scottish Government has said it will reduce management spend by 25 per cent, and this was the ideal opportunity to make some progress on that.

“It is wrong for the health service to spend this much money on a spin doctor and should be clamped down on.

“We need more nurses, more doctors, more beds – not more managers. We have patients lying in soiled clothes because nurses don’t have enough time to get them cleaned up – that’s how bad it’s got, and the way to fix it is not through doing this.” The advert for Jenifer Stirton’s successor was published yesterday, stating there “has never been a more important time to make sure that the people of Edinburgh, the Lothians and indeed Scotland know what is happening in their NHS”.

Ms Stirton left the organisation on Friday after seven years for a similar role with the Student Loans Company UK.

While her title suggested a purely PR role, sources said her influence at NHS Lothian reached considerably further.

Health chiefs said the job to ensure the flow of information between the health board and politicians, patients and the 28,000 staff was “world class”.

While Ms Watt acknowledged the need for a level of communications work, she pointed to the closure- threatened homeopathic service, which costs less than that wage to run each year.

However, senior medical sources said there was not the contempt for non-clinical management roles that some suggested. One said that there was actually a healthy respect for them “keeping the show on the road”.

Alan Boyter, director of HR at NHS Lothian said: “Leading communications for such a large and complex organisation requires an experienced communications professional. Our communications team provides a vital service in ensuring that patients, staff, local communities and the media receive appropriate and timely information.

“The director of communications is a replacement post and the terms and conditions are agreed nationally.”