Coping with international coverage: the Mandy Allwood story

Nick Samuels had been corporate communications manager at King's College Healthcare trust for just a month when the Mandy Allwood octuplets story broke in 1996

'I first heard about the story a few weeks before while lying on a beach in the Mediterranean. I picked up a paper and as I read about Mandy Allwood I thought: 'Poor sod who has to deal with that.' Then I saw she was coming to King's.'

More than 150 journalists, producers and camera crews followed Ms Allwood to King's. As well as national and local media, there were television crews from the US, Japan and Peru.

At any one time up to 50 journalists were on the site. Mr Samuels phoned journalists and producers to estimate the amount and type of coverage the story would generate, and what facilities the crews would need. It was lucky the trust had some time to plan, he says.

He had to find a room big enough to accommodate journalists and crews and identify ample parking space for the television broadcast vans. The room had to be close enough to the vans so that cables could be used, as radio contact could interfere with electronic clinical equipment.

In the event, the boardroom was given over to the media once it had been established that there were enough power points. Press conferences had to be carefully scheduled to ensure that all the television crews got footage and interviews in time for their programmes.

The trust also had to agree beforehand with Ms Allwood and her agent, Max Clifford, on how

information about the progress of the pregnancy would be handled.

Twenty minutes after Ms Allwood arrived at King's in an ambulance, a television crew had arrived. King's discovered later that news agencies had reporters outside the hospital watching for the arrival. But by then, the trust was prepared.

'It was one of the most exciting times of my career,' says Mr Samuels.