Handling fallout over hospital merger

The roof fell in when Worcestershire Health Authority announced it was going to merge three hospitals into two and therefore close its acute hospital at Kidderminster.

A campaign led by a local GP drew massive support, with rallies of banner-waving protesters, impassioned speeches by councillors, anti-coverage in the media and public consultations where senior managers were howled down.

Faced with a PR nightmare the WHA approached Gravitas for help in getting its case across. Our strategy was not to try winning over a hostile media but to take the WHA message directly to the grass roots with a combination of meet-the-people talks and community presentations, all of which we prepared, and a widely-circulated newsletter.

We also advised the WHA chairman to accept an invitation to appear on regional TV, where with Gravitas coaching she excelled in making her point.

The outcome? It didn’t bring round a powerfully-motivated opposition – that was always going to be impossible – but there was far less heat and more understanding that the change was being taken with care and understanding.