Health quango back-tracks on external PR contract


By Cara Sulieman

A SCOTTISH health quango has back-tracked on plans to hire an external public relations company after coming under fire from politicians.

NHS Health Scotland put out a tender worth £120,000 for a “public affairs agency” to help them get their message across at parliament.

But last week Labour MSP Richard Baker called for Audit Scotland to investigate the contract as he thought it was a waste of public money.

He said that ministers needed to “make sure they are getting their priorities right” and questioned the value for money of the contract.

And now the quango – responsible for organising national health campaigns – has cancelled the contract, saying very little about their decision only that they had decided to do it themselves.

“Enhance reputation”

NHS Health Scotland originally advertised for a “public affairs agency” to “be its representative within the Scottish Parliamentary arena”.

The tender for the contract stated that the successful agency would be required to “enhance and protect the reputation and profile of health improvement by establishing the Authority as the expert voice on health improvement and health equality issues, and demonstrating added-value to Scottish Government activity”.

They were prepared to pay an agency £40,000 a year for three years to promote 12 specific campaigns on a variety of subjects including child oral health, cervical screening and meningitis awareness.

But politicians were stunned that the quango felt they needed to employ an external agency to lobby parliament.


The organisation’s u-turn has been welcomed by Mr Baker.

He said: “I am delighted that Health Scotland have seen sense and decided to cancel this contract.

“In the current economic circumstances when money is tight, we need to see resources going to support doctors and nurses on the front line and not to PR agencies.”

And Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Mike Rumbles MSP said: “I’m delighted to see common sense prevailing.

“The Scottish Parliament is open to all, especially public bodies who should never even think of wasting taxpayers’ money.”

A spokesman for NHS Health Scotland said: “NHS Health Scotland has taken the decision to bring all of its corporate communications activity in-house.”