Kent and Medway Acute Stroke Services Review

Ten clinical commissioning groups needed to transform acute stroke services across Kent and Medway to improve outcomes and reduce death and disability from stroke. The proposal was to establish three hyper acute stroke units, consolidating the current acute services which were being delivered across six hospital sites. Our brief was to lead, plan and deliver the communications and engagement support in the pre-consultation, assurance, consultation and decision-making phases of the review, covering a population of 2.2 million.

We developed and delivered a communications and engagement strategy and delivery plans aligned to the transformation programme in each phase. This included: narrative and message development; planned, sequenced and consistent communication across a range of channels (internal communications, digital, media, social media, stakeholder relations etc) and robust engagement with staff, patients, carers, stakeholders, campaigners and the public, including outreach to seldom heard and protected characteristic groups; comprehensive consultation activity including development of the consultation document and consultation plan, delivery of 28 public meetings, a comprehensive research programme (focus groups, telephone polling, surveys), extensive stakeholder relations, and production of digital and printed content and collateral. As part of the programme team we worked closely with the Programme Management Office and multiple partner organisations, and with and through local communications and engagement colleagues. We also trained and supported clinical and organisational leaders to stand on public platforms with a compelling case for change, a clearly articulated vision and lines to take on key issues.

We delivered the consultation activity to plan and within budget and exceeded the reach and response targets for the public consultation. Our work was highly praised by the client, held up as best-practice by national regulators, and in an unprecedented move was commended by the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (comprised across four local authority areas).

British Lung Foundation

The British Lung Foundation wanted to put lung health on the national health agenda in a similar way to heart health. Our brief was to develop a shared vision and jointly owned comprehensive evidence-based policy document, for lobbying and influencing key opinion formers and decision-makers on the investment in and support for lung health across England.

We provided strategic communications support to the British Lung Foundation, supporting their work to bring together multiple stakeholder and partner organisations into a ‘Lung Taskforce’ (membership includes a range of national charities, academics, clinical bodies, patient groups etc with an interest in lung health) and an Industry Group (mainly comprising pharmaceutical industry members). The work involved complex, sensitive and highly political stakeholder relations; the development of a lung health campaign, including brand development and a creative campaign solution; development of core narrative and key messages (and gaining partner sign up to those); production of collateral to support partners to communicate and engage consistently around the programme; proactive and reactive media relations; and project management of the development and production of the Taskforce’s policy document.

The programme has helped to ensure lung health is on the national agenda as it features in the NHS Long Term Plan. We have been re-commissioned to provide support for the next phase of the programme, noting our success in helping The British Lung Foundation deliver on a complex stakeholder relations programme.

Dorset Clinical Services Review

Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group was proposing changes to healthcare services across three acute trusts and community-based care across the county. This was an extensive and complex, highly political and sensitive programme of clinical services transformation work. Working as part of a consortium with McKinsey and Company, our brief was to lead the communications and engagement and support the co-design and development of proposals in the pre-consultation phase to create clinically and financially sustainable services across the county.

We developed and delivered a communications and engagement strategy, stakeholder mapping and stakeholder relations plan, core narrative and messaging, digital and printed collateral, media and social media activity, including training and support for key spokespeople. We provided communications and engagement advice to the Clinical Commissioning Group Governing Body, Trust Boards and county-wide Programme Board. We planned, developed and provided communications and engagement support, collateral and activity for: the case for change, evaluation criteria development, design and development of the model of care, options development and consultation planning. The programme involved working with organisational leaders, over 600 clinicians, patients and members of the public, and multiple partners and stakeholders on a plan for reconfiguration of clinical services in highly complex and sometimes very contentious areas of service provision. We worked closely with Clinical Commissioning Group and Trust colleagues as a ‘matrix’ team to plan, lead and deliver effective communication and engagement activity. We also initiated, established and ran a Patient and Public Advisory Group and a Communications and Engagement Network Group across the county.

The review is seen nationally as a best-practice example of large scale transformation and service change. Our pre-consultation communications and engagement programme laid a strong foundation for Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group to move through regulator assurance to formal public consultation with established relationships, systems and processes to work with multiple stakeholders across many organisations to deliver change.

Department of Health and Social Care

The Secretary of State for Health commissioned an independent report to review and develop recommendations on the themes and lessons learnt from NHS investigations into matters relating to Jimmy Savile. This included independent oversight of the investigations at three NHS hospitals – Leeds General Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and Broadmoor – and at the Department of Health, into the association Savile had with those hospitals and the Department, and allegations that Savile committed sexual abuses on the hospitals’ premises. The Secretary of State also asked that the report looked at and made recommendations for NHS-wide procedures. As the Department of Health was one of the organisations reviewed in the report an independent Chair for the national press conference marking the publication of the report and its recommendations was sought. Steph Hood from Hood & Woolf was commissioned for this role. Our brief was to prepare for and chair the national press conference, balancing gravitas and empathy with organisational neutrality in a highly charged, extremely sensitive and emotive high-profile environment.

In preparation for the publication of the independent report and press conference we worked with all parties – independent investigators, NHS Trust chief executives, Department officials, NHS Trust communications leads and the Department of Health press office – to plan the effective and non-partisan delivery of the report’s findings. The press conference attracted all the national print and broadcast media, local media to Leeds General Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor hospitals, trade media and campaign group leaders on behalf of the victims. The press conference was broadcast live across all national channels.

Steph chaired, facilitated and ensured the smooth running of the press conference and managed all parties involved to make sure the key findings from the report(s) were conveyed and all media outlets had the opportunity to ask questions and conduct interviews as required. Positive feedback on Steph’s role was received from the independent investigators, NHS Trust chief executives, the Department of Health and journalists. The Department of Health noted Steph ‘managed a very high profile and challenging media occasion (and with some panellists not used to any spotlight, let alone such a strong one) with great skill.’

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Bristol were seeking support to respond effectively to a series of potentially damning high-profile independent reports which were being published within a short period of time. Our brief was to support the Trust to respond to the reports and to communicate effectively with all key audiences. We developed a comprehensive communications plan to support the Trust to take a pre-emptive, coherent, co-ordinated and proactive approach to the publication of the reports – thereby ensuring openness, transparency and reassurance. 

This approach ensured the Trust was able to respond effectively to the reports, demonstrating integrity in how it responded, in what was a challenging period for them.

Mid and South Essex Acute Hospitals Reconfiguration

Clinical commissioning groups and the MSB Group of three acute NHS hospital trusts in mid and south Essex were proposing changes across three hospital sites and a range of acute services, including A&E. Our brief was to provide strategic communications advice and counsel to the Joint Working Board and the acute trust Group leadership team in the pre-consultation phase. The acute trust Group wanted our support to ensure they were in a state of ‘readiness’ to lead over 12,000 staff, patients, stakeholders and key partners through, and support the delivery of, transformational change.

In addition to working alongside the in-house communication and engagement teams to provide support, develop a compelling narrative and key messaging, and enhance skills in media handling and stakeholder relations, we worked with senior leaders throughout the organisations providing robust assurance to the Group Chief Executive, Joint Working Board and Trust executive teams on the communications and engagement elements of the change programme. Our work included: creating a single, compelling narrative and consistent messaging to support the delivery of change; core materials to support staff engagement at each hospital site; reputation management including media relations and training sessions for clinicians and leaders on developing and managing the message; stakeholder engagement insight and oversight (supporting relations with the local authorities’ Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, MPs, campaign groups, councillors and regulators); the development and delivery of targeted and engaging communication materials; advice and insight – steering Clinical Commissioning Group and Trust colleagues on the practical and statutory requirements of a public consultation.

At a time of change and associated concern for staff in the three hospital trusts we supported the acute hospitals Group leadership team to develop consistent messaging for better localised staff engagement; to reassure and tell a consistent story about the proposed changes to political and other stakeholders; to manage reputation and public understanding through enhanced media relations; and to prepare alongside clinical commissioning group colleagues for the statutory consultation ahead.

Healthy Weston

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, Weston Area Health NHS Trust and other NHS partners in Bristol and North Somerset have been working to redesign acute hospital services in Weston-super-Mare and the surrounding area. Their aim is to make sure services more consistently meet national quality standards, better meet the changing needs of the local population, and are clinically and financially sustainable for the long-term. Our brief was to work with the Clinical Commissioning Group and Healthy Weston Steering Group to advise on and lead delivery of the communications and engagement activity to support the pre-consultation phase of this complex and challenging service reconfiguration programme, and to advise and support the Clinical Commissioning Group during public consultation on the proposed changes.

We developed and delivered a communications and engagement strategy to support the pre-consultation work; advised chief executives, senior leaders, the Clinical Commissioning Group governing body and trust board; drafted and produced a public-facing case for change; developed a rolling narrative and key messaging and established regular communication updates on the programme for a range of audiences; ensured effective public engagement on the developing proposals and options development, including with the seldom heard; supported staff engagement and stakeholder relations, particularly with MPs and local councillors; supported development of the pre-consultation business case and assurance with regulators in terms of the communications and engagement approach and activity; drafted and produced the consultation document; developed the consultation plan; worked across organisations to develop and agree consistent media lines and responses; trained clinical and other leaders to manage the media and present effectively in public consultation meetings; and produced written, video and digital collateral to help explain the reasons for change and proposals to address the challenges faced.

The pre-consultation communications and engagement approach and activity we put in place established ways of working across multiple organisations that continued through to the consultation phase and is supporting the delivery of change in the Weston area. The national regulator, whose role is to assure the work of complex change programmes, described our consultation plan as ‘textbook perfect’ and praised the pre-consultation communications and engagement activity.