Published: 04/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5799 Page 84

The number of press and public relations staff at the Department of Health has almost doubled in the past five years.

The leap from 57 press and PR staff in 1997 to 98 this year was revealed by junior health minister Hazel Blears in reply to a parliamentary written question from Conservative MP Andrew Turner.

Figures show the largest rise in the number of Leeds-based NHS communications staff, up from just 11 in 1997 to 24 in 2002, while media centre press officers have increased from 15 to 24 and 'staff in campaign/ PR' have nearly doubled from 16 to 31.

Regional office communications staff have increased less dramatically, from 15 to 19.

A DoH spokesperson said that the increase in staff was due to the demands of new areas of work - such as website design - the scale of change in the NHS increasing the need for internal communications, and the 'fragmentation and explosion' of media outlets since 1997, bringing with it an increase in enquiries.