Meet Peter Hunt, the latest Director of Communications signing for the NHS

Peter Hunt-no creditPeter Hunt will soon be leaving his ‘royal’ role for an appointment at Queen’s
to take up the post of Communications Director
at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.

Peter, the BBC’s renowned royal reporter for almost three decades, starts his new role next month (November 2017). He will be based at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, Essex, a short hop from where he grew up in Upminster, and he will also spend time at King George Hospital in Goodmayes. Starting as a clerk at the BBC in London in 1982, Peter has been a Royal Reporter since 2003, also covering general news. He has covered some of the biggest stories of the day, including more recently the Leveson Enquiry, the Manchester and London Bridge attacks and the Grenfell fire.

Peter said: “It was just the right time to jump the fence into the world of communications.

“I’ve loved working at the BBC as the job of reporter is unpredictable, a mix of big moments, some wonderful and some hard-hitting, which sometimes can be depressing. But there have been plenty of nice stories too over the years. And, it will always be a habit that I go to work with my passport – prepared for anything!

“I got to the age where I thought I’d like to try something different where I can use my skills as they are very transferable. I also thought if I don’t do it now, I never will!


“I chose the NHS, and the public sector, as, like the BBC, it is one of the two pillars which makes us a civil society. People have an emotional allegiance to the NHS, which is really evident, and health affects us all. We’ve all used the NHS at some point in our lives, and we are all keen to ensure it remains there for us and our families in our times of need. The staff really are fantastic.

“And, it’s a big plus for me that I grew up in the area that Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust covers, so I know the area well – I guess I’m almost coming home!”

Due to start in mid-November, Peter admits the role change ‘will be a massive learning curve’. But he says: “I’ll hit the ground running and am already reaching out to NHS colleagues to hear what the latest news and issues are, the changes coming up, including the sustainability and transformation plans, the items we can communicate positively to ensure we keep raising our profile and promote the fantastic work everybody does, involving our stakeholders and importantly the staff, patients and carers.

“positive communication to promote the fantastic work
of everyone in the NHS”

“Coming from the BBC, where we research, write, respond and present, my skills are really transferable. I’ll be continuing with my ethos of creating and maintaining excellent working relationships. One of the best things I have learnt over the years, and also honed, is the art of good listening.

“People relationships are key to all jobs and I am a ‘you get what you see person’. I do believe you should be open as an individual and listen in a genuine way to people. Not in the eyes glazed over way! I learnt to listen as a reporter. It really does reap rewards but, more importantly, makes the other person feel genuinely valued, which is what we all need in the workplace.

“I’m always an advocate of looking at the bigger picture and this will be something I’ll incorporate into the day job as we can often look to solve a problem or answer a query in the here and now without thinking about how our messaging will be carried going forward.”

CIPR’s support & networks can aid learning curves

SPinchSarah Pinch, CIPR Fellow and CIPR 2015 President, is MD of Pinch Point Communications which has been supporting the Trust in the gap between Rachel Royall leaving to take up the helm at NHS Digital and before Peter joins.

She said: “I am delighted Peter has been appointed, 17 years ago I made the leap from the BBC to corporate communications, it was a steep learning curve and I was very grateful to the CIPR for its support and networks, something I know Peter will also value.

“Peter is a great listener, has a sharp intellectual mind and a passion for the NHS which was palpable and moving when he gave his presentation to staff at Queen’s hospital. His ability to spot a strong story and his commitment to honesty and integrity will benefit Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) and the wider NHS, I look forward to working with him.”

Peter on digital

So, what does Peter think are some of the areas he will be looking at in the new role? “I’m a massive fan of using digital channels, particularly as staff and stakeholders are not always based in one place all of the time,” he says. “But we still need to ensure we reach who we need to effectively, and I’ll look to build on the fantastic work already happening at BHRUT and in the NHS in this area.

“we need to ensure we reach who we need to effectively”

“As the communications landscape is constantly changing and moving apace, we need to always think are the channels we are using internally and externally the right ones.

“I also think the public sector as a whole needs to look at providing out of hour support for social communications, but the problem with this is once you start engaging with people for good customer care, then where do you draw the line?”

On the social communications front, Peter has a large following with more than 63,000 people on Twitter. And, whilst Peter still champions this channel, he says: “My tolerance to abuse has decreased across the years. I’m not paid to take abuse, particularly not personal abuse. So, the amount of people I just block has increased in recent years.”

Peter adds: “I can’t wait to start the new job. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of good wishes and sentiments from colleagues on the announcement I am leaving the BBC for the world of NHS communications. It has been very touching.

“I’m very excited, a little scared. The new job at BHRUT is a big challenge, but I am up for it and very proud to be given the opportunity to join Team NHS Comms!

“I appreciate I will only be as good as the communications team, so will look to build on their fantastic work, and see how I can help them to further improve and grow – and I like a laugh with my colleagues too, particularly as I always wrongly believed I could make it as a comedian!”

“proud to be joining Team NHS Comms”

Peter is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and its Local Public Services Group.

Did you know?

  • In the school orchestra, Peter perfected the art of playing the violin in such a way that the strings never touched the bow. “I was doing the audience a favour.”
  • Mohamed Al Fayed accused Peter on camera, during the Princess Diana inquest, of being a MI6 spy.

Follow the CIPR LPS on Twitter @ciprlps

Follow Peter on Twitter @BBCPeterHunt

Peter Hunt’s articles on BBC website

Peter Hunt is Royal correspondent and occasional presenter of Saturday’s BBC PM and The World This Week on BBC World Service.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust website

Media Centre and Communications Team at BHRUT

Article by: Kerry Sheehan MCIPR

Kerry works as Communications Lead for a NHS authority and is a member of the CIPR LPS Committee.

Web editor: Abha Thakor

Thank you to Peter Hunt and Sarah Pinch for their support of the CIPR Local Public Services group and for the photography on this page.