letters

I was interested to read about Helen McCallum's impending departure from the Department of Health (news, page 5, May 31, news focus, page 18, June 7).

Their loss is certainly the Environment Agency's gain.

Helen is committed, dynamic, professional - and an inspiration to those of us doing a 'front-line' job in the field.

I have recently left a communications post in the NHS (at a large acute hospital).

I was frustrated by the constant, unnecessary intervention and political spin imposed by politicians and civil servants.

They often demonstrated a complete lack of understanding about what actually happens in the NHS.

I have worked in communications for 15 years, and even in my very junior days I was credited with having something to offer.

However, the DoH and the NHS Executive treats its NHS communications professionals with disdain and contempt.

Their usual tack is to issue Janet-and-John-style 'toolkits' (for proactive PR) or prescriptive 'lines to take' (for the nasty, reactive stuff).

They issue instructions about what to say, as well as when and how to say it, and even what colour it can be printed in!

At times, the government's 'line to take' has no bearing on reality whatsoever.

I was lucky in my job - my trust board supported me and acknowledged the need to communicate openly with our patients and the public.

As I write this letter, my father is critically ill on a hospital trolley, having been told that there are no beds and that he will have to stay on his trolley overnight.

That is all too often the reality of the NHS.

I am an intelligent and experienced communicator. I believe in the NHS and enjoyed working for my trust.

But in the end, I decided to move on before the government introduced straitjackets to match their gags!

Corinne Farrell Plymouth PL6 7DL