COMMERCIAL: The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital has hired a PR firm to “manage negative coverage” of its proposed private finance initiative rebuild.

The north London specialist trust hired PR firm Grayling for an undisclosed sum last year for a six-month contract that ends at February.

In the tender document released under the Freedom of Information Act, the trust’s communications team stipulated the firm’s responsibilities would be: “Communication of the RNOH’s central narrative regarding the planning application, positive media coverage and activities during the term of this contract, helping to generate support, managing any negative press coverage which may arise particularly in relation to the RNOH’s association with PFI [and] securing coverage in national and regional newspapers, trade magazines and other useful publications.”

Grayling were also called on to advise on whether there should be further public consultation following the submission of a planning application.

Under a list of “key tasks” the trust’s communications team said the successful bidder would be to: “In consultation with the client, identify the key stakeholder organisations and individuals who will have an important influence on the statutory planning process, devise and agree a strategy with the client for engaging with those individuals and organisations, both pre and post application, advise on the need for any further public consultation following submission of the planning application (in addition to the statutory consultation undertaken by the local authority) and, if considered necessary, to advise on its content [and to] secure briefings and interviews for the client team with key media (regional and national as well as local), and prepare associated briefing packs.”

It said the successful PR agency must also: “Work with the client and external advisers to prepare statements to be
presented by the client or external advisors at key stages in the planning process, in particular to the Greater London Authority (stages one and two) and the London Borough of Harrow planning committee.”

The tender said it was “vital” the trust gets planning permission to sell part of its estate for residential properties “by February 2013 in order for the PFI procurement process to continue to meet the planned trajectory”.