2006: Connecting with patients and the public

  • Winner: Lee Grant, Plymouth Primary Care Trust
  • Runner up: Communications Team, Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust

Winning project: Working proactively with the media before the release of a mental health patient into the community.

This piece of work centred on the imminent release into the community of a mental health patient. He had killed a member of the public just two years previously and had been sent to a clinic following a judgement of 'diminished responsibility'.

The local newspaper was aware of his forthcoming release and could have run a 'Killer freed' front page story. Communications at Plymouth Primary Care Trust worked proactively with the patient, his psychiatrist, staff, solicitors, the police, the media and many others to prepare the patient for a planned interview with the paper. The aim was to make the story a more personal account of his time in an institution, his remorse and his hopes for the future.

It took almost three months to set up before the interview took place. The front page headline of 'I'm sorry' treated the patient with respect and was written just as the PCT had hoped.

The story was effective in challenging the public perception of mental health; it helped the PCT's reputation and most improtantly, it helped the patient's rehabilitation and integration back into society. In terms of communications, it was a case that involved diplomacy between all the involved parties to make sure the plan stayed on track. The support, PR guidance and hand holding of the patient was also central.

Judge: Niall Dickson, the King's Fund

Judge's Comment: This was a brilliant project which scored top marks in every category.

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