Six leading health titles have complained to the Department of Health to raise concerns about lack of information. The news editors of Doctor, Nursing Standard, Nursing Times, Pulse, Hospital Doctor and GP have all signed a letter which claims they have experienced “recurring problems” with the press office.
In the letter, they claim that responses to straightforward questions or requests for information take days to materialise, or are ignored altogether; queries that do prompt a reply do not address the question that has been put, and are presented on a “take it or leave it” basis; and press officers rarely, if ever, provide any kind of background briefing or information. It also suggests there is a widely held perception that the specialist press is a “low priority”, with the “national” media always given precedence. The magazines also claim the press office has refused to acknowledge attempts to set up meetings with journalists.
Simon Ebbett, news editor of Doctor, claimed there was no level of understanding and there was a feeling that even press officers were being “shut out of the loop”. “We start to wonder whether they are trying to hide things,” he said.
“Questions to officials have to go through the press office, then back through the press office again for them to vet. If there’s a follow-up question, it can take days to get a reply. In one case they said, ‘you asked us a question three weeks ago – what was it?’.”
Graham Scott, news editor of Nursing Standard, said: “We rarely get to speak to an official. We simply get prepared statements.”
By Ruth Addicott