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.