How much have you paid Alesha Dixon?

Today’s Observer brings us the story of how the NHS is spending money on getting celebrities to take part in health information campaigns but insisting on keeping the details secret in case it puts people off:

The Department of Health, which increasingly uses actors, singers, television stars and sports personalities to convince the nation to adopt healthier habits, refuses to admit how much it spends on celebrity campaigns. Now critics have accused the government of “unacceptable secrecy” following speculation that stars are being paid up to £10,000 a day for their appearances.

The DoH has rejected a bid by the Observer under the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much money Alesha Dixon received for backing the Condom Essential Wear campaign, or the fee paid to model turned television presenter Melinda Messenger for helping to promote the 5-A-Day healthy eating scheme, or the amount paid to singer Jenny Frost for supporting its Breast Buddy breastfeeding initiative…

“It’s good to work with people who are of a high profile. But given that it’s a national health service, we do have a right to know how much celebrities are paid,” said Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs. “It’s just a shame that celebrities don’t give up their time for free to help improve the health of the nation. That would be a brilliant, public-spirited thing to do.”

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman on health, said: “In many ways the use of celebrities makes a lot of sense, but there’s no justification at all for secrecy over these fees. It’s unacceptable and ludicrous that the DoH refuses to release the amounts paid. It’s public money and we have a right to know.”

I think Norman Lamb has got the balance just right. Using celebrities can be an effective way of reaching out to different audiences, but secrecy stops accountability and protects waste. Without the safety net of public scrutiny, it is far too easy for bad and wasteful decisions to be made.

You can read the full Observer story here.

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One Comment

  • So I guess the next question is how much did the Scottish Government pay the likes of Sean Connery and Lulu to appear in their “Homecoming” advert?

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