Assuaging public fears over hospital cuts

Skill area: Crisis management and public engagement through events

Objective: Public understanding over bed cuts at local hospitals

Worcestershire health authority faced a PR nightmare in its efforts to rationalise three acute hospitals spread over three trusts to one acute hospital over two sites. Kidderminster campaigners felt their concerns were being brushed aside, their district councillors sided with them and the media treatment of a PFI initiative was one-sided.

Worcestershire Health Authority asked for our help in a true spirit of public engagement and our strategy was a combination of meet-the-people talks and community group presentations and a newsletter sent to hot spots in the county, notably Kidderminster.

This was not a media relations campaign, but when the WHA chairman had the chance to make the WHA case to local TV, we advised her to do it. With coaching she excelled at making her case reassuringly and it took some of the heat out of the dispute and showed sceptical residents that inevitable change was being taken with care.