NHS Communicate – celebrating excellence in health communications

Daniel Reynolds profile picture

27 May 2021

Daniel Reynolds
Director of Communications
NHS Confederation


Adam Brimelow profile picture

Adam Brimelow
Director of Communications


John Underwood profile picture

John Underwood
Director of the Centre for Health Communication Research
Bucks New University


The NHS has demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of coronavirus and what has been an unprecedented period in the history of the health service.

Staff working across different teams and boundaries have united towards a common goal to not only prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, but also to transform services in ways that will leave a legacy for patients.

Professional communicators and engagement specialists have played their part in the COVID-19 response. Having been plunged into great uncertainty like their colleagues, communicators have adapted by providing rapid information to the public, staff and local communities, often in new and innovative ways. Like others, they have had to change the way they work overnight, making greater use of new technologies and tools in the process.

And they have been in greater demand for strategic advice. Research published last year by the Centre for Health Communications Research (CHCR), NHS Providers and NHS Confederation found that during the early stages of the pandemic, there was a greater appreciation of professional communications within NHS organisations and an enhanced recognition of communications as a strategic function.

We believe the health communications profession will emerge from the pandemic in a strengthened position as a result. We also know the events of the last year will change communications practice for years to come, if not irrevocably.

 

Showcasing the very best of the profession

It is with this in mind that the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers and the CHCR have joined forces to launch a conference for health and care communications leaders, alongside a new awards event that will recognise the achievements of communicators and celebrate innovation.

We are passionate about the strategic contribution that health communicators and engagement specialists make and want to celebrate the success of the profession.

There is no better time to do this than on the back of such a tumultuous year. COVID-19 has both inspired and stretched communicators to their limits. There are some aspects of pandemic working that will be left behind, but many of the changes we have seen to communications practices will be hardwired into the future.

Our conference and awards – called NHS Communicate 2021 – will capture this learning and showcase the very best of the profession over two inspiring days in September. Senior communicators from across the health and care system and beyond will judge the awards – the categories of which are set out here.

We want this to be the most open awards opportunity for health communicators, with individuals and teams at all levels encouraged to enter. With that in mind, we are making the awards free to enter and there are no associated costs with attending the awards ceremony.

 

Addressing the strategic challenges ahead

While we will celebrate success and share best practice through our awards, we will also debate some of the critical challenges facing the profession with the help of communications leaders from inside and outside the sector. As communications leaders, our NHS Communicate 2021 conference will be the place to join the conversation.

We will be asking:

  • How we build on the effective partnership working that has been a feature of the last year to continue to break down boundaries between communicators working across the health and care system and beyond.
  • How we hardwire use of data, digital and other tools to improve our insight into patients and local communities to improve patient outcomes.
  • How we safeguard the reputation of the NHS with an exhausted workforce facing a mounting backlog of care that will see some patients waiting longer for treatment.
  • How we engage as effectively as possible with our staff given the known links between a well-engaged staff and patient outcomes.
  • How we improve diversity in all its forms in the profession, including tackling why there are so few BAME staff at the top of the communications profession.
  • How we better support our communications leaders and their teams and protect their health and wellbeing.
  • And, finally, how we strike the right balance between central control and local autonomy when it comes to empowering health communicators and their teams.

The answers to these questions will help shape the future of the profession and, if successful, we will look to build on this in 2022 and beyond.

For now, we encourage you to get involved in the conversation, showcase your best practice and sign up to attend.

About the authors

Daniel Reynolds profile picture

Daniel Reynolds
Director of Communications

Daniel Reynolds joined the NHS Confederation in December 2018. He is a former journalist and now communications director with 20 years’ experience of working in high-profile national organisations, including think tanks and membership bodies.

He began his career as a news reporter on a local newspaper before joining Sky as a news reporter. He then joined the independent health think tank The King’s Fund, where he eventually became deputy director of communications before taking up the role of director of communications at another think tank, the Nuffield Trust. After seven years he left to become director of communications at NHS Providers before joining the NHS Confederation.

Adam Brimelow profile picture

Adam Brimelow
Director of Communications
@adambrimelow

Adam Brimelow is NHS Providers’ director of communications. Prior to joining as head of news in 2016 he was a BBC health correspondent for 14 years, working across a range of outlets including Today and World at One on radio 4, TV news bulletins and online. Previously Adam also worked for BBC World Service and in local radio, based in Birmingham and Manchester. Read more

John Underwood profile picture

John Underwood
Director of the Centre for Health Communication Research

John Underwood is the director of the Centre for Health Communication Research (CHCR) at Buckinghamshire New University. A former TV correspondent with the BBC and ITV News, John now leads the work of CHCR, the UK’s leading research centre on professional communication and engagement within the NHS.

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