NHS Communicate Conference 2021

15 September – Online


The last two years have been the most challenging period in the 73-year history of the NHS. We now have a new Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, and a new Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP. Together they will be forging a new direction of travel. It’s time to celebrate the successes and learn the lessons of the recent past. It’s time to rethink the way we do NHS communications.

The NHS Communicate 2021 conference is an opportunity for senior communicators across the NHS to come together, share their experiences and debate the future direction of NHS communication and engagement.

Delivered in partnership by NHS Providers, NHS Confederation and the Centre for Health Communications Research (CHCR), we'll bring you the very latest insight and debate to help you look ahead with confidence and drive innovation to deliver tactical and strategic impact in health communications.

In an open letter, Daniel Reynolds, Adam Brimelow and John Underwood (from NHS Confederation, NHS Providers and CHCR respectively) thank NHS communicators for their service, dedication and professionalism throughout the pandemic, acknowledging their tremendous contribution and collaborative approach to working against unprecedented challenges. Read their letter here.

Supported by


Allocate Loop

Loop, by Allocate Software, is the brand new communications app dedicated to the health and care industries. Loop makes it simple for colleagues to connect and communicate with each other and stay in the loop with the latest organisational news. 

From direct messaging and personalised newsfeeds to staff groups that are automatically generated based on the roster, Loop helps improve intra-employee communications and engagement within your organisation. As a secure platform, Loop ensures your workforce can connect and communicate in a safe environment and offers a better work-life balance, by keeping all work communications to the one app. 

Plus, Loop is the only communications app available that integrates your organisations’ rosters. This means your workforce can have instant access to their personal rota, see who they are working with, book their annual leave allowance and request shifts; all on the go with Loop. 


Freshwater is one of the UK’s leading health communications agencies with more than 25 years’ experience in helping NHS clients achieve their goals. We provide integrated communication services across the NHS. Our specialist healthcare team has decades of experience in supporting NHS communicators and delivering NHS communications, having led major transformation projects, large-scale engagement and consultation programmes and health promotion campaigns for national, regional and local NHS clients.   

Our work has won us a place on multiple procurement frameworks and a place on PR Week’s list of Top Ten Public Sector Agencies. Freshwater is sponsoring NHS Communicate because we believe it is important to shine a spotlight on the critical role played by professional communicators within the NHS as we emerge from the pandemic and begin the path to recovery. 

Why attend?

This September, our virtual event will offer some much-needed perspective on what the future holds for you, your team and your organisation following the impact of the pandemic.

We’ll gather senior-level, communications professionals in the health sector to debate mission critical issues with top speakers and invaluable networking. Engage, connect and empower your communications team through the next year with our carefully considered range of topics.

Be inspired by top speakers from inside and outside the sector as they rethink and update their communications strategies to help you prepare for the new realities of system working in a post-pandemic world.

If you’re a CIPR member, attending NHS Communicate will add 10 points to your CPD points balance. Once you’ve booked to attend, simply log in to the MyCPD Dashboard and click to confirm your attendance to gain your points.


Book your place today

Who attends?

The NHS Communicate conference provides a great opportunity to catch up and exchange ideas with peers from across the sector. It's designed for senior level communications professionals from:

  • NHS trusts and foundation trusts
  • clinical commissioning groups
  • integrated care systems
  • primary care networks and primary care federations
  • national bodies.



The agenda is designed to give you a new perspective on the environment we're working in, the tools to create compelling communications and the flexibility to adapt quickly to future challenges.

The conference will be hosted by Victoria Macdonald, health and social care editor for Channel 4 News.

Stayed tuned for more announcements by following us on Twitter @NHSCommunicate and using #NHSCommunicate

Filter by strand



Welcome and introduction

Welcome and introduction

Victoria Macdonald, health and social care editor for Channel 4 News, will open the conference. 


Plenary 1

The future of health communications

The value of strategic communications to the delivery of better patient outcomes, more efficient services and more engaged staff has become clearer during the pandemic. This opening session will examine the key learning from communications practice during the pandemic and what needs to happen now to improve the way we communicate and engage with our local communities.  This session will be followed by a contribution from James Lyons, the new director of communications at NHS England and NHS Improvement. 


  • Alex Aiken, executive director, Government Communications 
  • Claire Riley, executive director of communications and corporate affairs, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 
  • Fiona Alexander, chief communication officer, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust and former editor of the Birmingham Post


Plenary 2

Update from James Lyons

Hear from James Lyons, director of communications at NHS England and NHS Improvement.


Morning break


Breakout sessions

1a. Louder Than Words. What is your workforce tech saying to your people?

  • Explore how to listen to what your staff are saying through their use of existing technologies and how you can shape wider communications and staff engagement through these channels
  • Consider how technologies outside of those formally used for communication is actually playing a part in what your people see, hear and feel
  • Discuss why it is mission critical to patient care and staff welfare that communications is a strategic partner to technology and HR teams
  • Share examples where HR, Communications and workforce tech are working together to harness hidden channels and change internal communication  


  • Liz Jones, chief marketing officer, Allocate Software
  • Rachel Royall, managing director and founder, Blue Lozenge
  • David Mulligan, head of workforce systems and deployment, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust
  • Kirk Millis-Ward, director of communications and engagement, Isle of Wight NHS Trust

1b. National media. Reporting the pandemic and future challenges for the NHS

Three national journalists share their experiences of reporting the pandemic and look forward to the communication challenges they see ahead for the NHS.


  • Hugh Pym, health editor at the BBC
  • Denis Campbell, health policy editor at the Guardian and Observer
  • Kat Lay, health editor at the Times


Plenary 3

NHS communicators and the staff wellbeing agenda

Wellbeing is a central component of good physical and mental health.  Without a sense of wellbeing it is difficult for people to rise to life's challenges and achieve what they want out of life.  The global pandemic has put all NHS staff – including professional communicators – under great stress.  The wellbeing agenda is now centre stage.  This session will look at the role of professional communicators in improving wellbeing and explore ways in which we can improve wellbeing in communication teams.


  • Rupert Clark, programme director, Allocate 
  • Professor Anne Gregory, director of the Global Capabilities Framework research project, the international PR capabilities benchmark
  • Ranjeet Kaile, executive director of communications, South London and Maudsley Trust
  • Kate Jarman, director of communications and corporate affairs at Milton Keynes University Hospital and co-founder of Flex NHS, a movement to promote and enable flexible working in the NHS




Plenary 4

Communicating with diverse communities and developing a more diverse communications workforce

The communications industry does not have a good record when it comes to employing staff from diverse backgrounds and generally speaking NHS communication teams are no exception.  This session will explore what needs to be done to improve communication with diverse communities and asks how this is linked to the development of a more diverse communications workforce.


  • Shak Rafiq, strategic communications lead at Bradford Teaching Hospitals 
  • Millie Banerjee, independent chair of the South West London Integrated Care Systems
  • Mark Hudson, head of Early Talent at News UK
  • Mary Mullix, director for the North Kensington Recovery (Grenfell) Programme in NHS North West London CCG.


Breakout sessions 2

2a. Communication in the new NHS age of Integrated Care Systems

The introduction of integrated care systems (ICSs) throughout England in 2022 is intended to bring about major changes in how health and care services are planned, paid for and delivered.  They are intended to deliver greater integration of health and care services; improved population health and reduced health inequalities. But what are the implications for NHS communicators? This session aims to provide some of the answers.


  • Edna Boampong, director of communications and engagement - Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS
  • Alex Ball, director of communications and engagement, Nottinghamshire ICS and CCG
  • Jack Adlam, regional head of communications (Midlands), NHS England and NHS Improvement

2b. Public views of the NHS

Data and insight are essential ingredients of effective communication.  This session will showcase recent insight research from the Britain Thinks team on changing attitudes towards the NHS and how the public thinks NHS services can be improved in the future.  It will also unveil new research on the NHS from the Survation polling company specially undertaken for the 2021 NHS Communicate Conference.

  • David Walker, chair, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and a former Guardian journalist
  • Anastasia Knox, from the health insight team, Britain Thinks
  • Carl Shoben, director of strategic communications, Survation polling company
  • Nick Samuels, executive director, Freshwater Healthcare


Afternoon break


Plenary 5

What do chief executives want from their professional communicators?

We all think we know what the boss wants. But do we really? In this final plenary session three NHS chief executives share their thinking about what they are really looking for from their professional communicators. It’s likely to be quite revealing.


  • Dr Jane Collins, former chief executive at Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • David Bradley, chief executive of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
  • Steve McManus, chief executive of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust


Closing remarks

Closing remarks

Victoria Macdonald, health and social care editor at Channel 4 News, will close the conference.



Victoria Macdonald
Victoria Macdonald

Health and social care editor for Channel 4 News

Victoria Macdonald is health and social care editor at Channel 4 News. She is an award-winning journalist, who has been covering health and social care issues for Channel 4 News since 1999. Her reports are wide-ranging from NHS reforms to medical innovations. From funding – or lack of – to rationing of drugs. From mental health provision to staff shortages. She has a special interest in HIV/Aids and TB, as well as child health and since 2020, has helped lead the coverage of the pandemic.



Alex Aiken
Alex Aiken

executive director for government communications

Alex Aiken is the executive director for Government communications. The most senior communications professional in the Civil Service, accountable for standards of the service and the management of the combined Cabinet Office/No. 10 communications team. Responsible for leading the profession and for the strategy, effectiveness and efficiency of government communications. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
Alex Ball
Alex Ball

Director of Communications and Engagement, Nottinghamshire ICS and CCG

Alex Ball is Director of Communications and Engagement for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire ICS and CCG. Alex has worked in the NHS since 2016 and has been in this role since 2018. Before this he worked for Boots UK Limited in a variety of roles in the marketing, commercial and pharmacy departments. Alongside these paid roles, Alex served as a Councillor on Nottingham City Council for six years from 2011 and took a particular interest in housing. Alex has an MBA in Strategic Management.
Anastasia Knox
Anastasia Knox

Health insight team at Britain Thinks

Anastasia Knox is an associate partner at international insight and strategy consultancy BritainThinks. For the last eight years, Anastasia has led BritainThinks' health and social care practice, working with clients including the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement and the King's Fund to understand perceptions and experiences of the NHS.
Professor Anne Gregory
Professor Anne Gregory

director of the Global Capabilities Framework research project, the international PR capabilities benchmark

Dr Anne Gregory is Professor Emeritus of corporate communication at the University of Huddersfield which she joined in 2014. She teaches on Executive Education programmes for the UK Government, European Commission, SK in Sweden, University of Navarra and RMIT, Australia. Anne is an international researcher of note, most recently directing the Global Capability Framework for PR professionals.
Carl Shoben
Carl Shoben

Director of Strategic Communications at the Survation polling company

Carl Shoben has over 20 years experience working in the NHS at all levels from hospitals, local health systems and in government. He has also worked as an adviser on strategic communications for the Tony Blair government and was more recently strategy director for the Labour Party. Carl now leads strategic communications for pollsters Survation, with a focus on campaign segmentation and effective targeted messaging. He is also a frequent media commentator.
Claire Riley
Claire Riley

Executive Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Claire Riley joined Northumbria Healthcare as the executive director of communications and corporate affairs. Her portfolio extends across all aspects of communications, marketing and engagement. In addition, Claire is currently the Integrated Care System (ICS) communications and engagement lead for the North East and North Cumbria. She was named 'North East marketing great' in 2017 after being included in the list of the 50 leading marketing professionals published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
David Bradley
David Bradley

chief executive of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

David Bradley joined South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust as chief executive in July 2019. He has extensive NHS operational experience in mental health, acute and community services. David began his career in the NHS in 1980, and has over 20 years’ experience at board level across different NHS trusts in London, Oxford and Surrey, including nine years as a chief executive officer. David is one of the founders of the South London Mental Health and Community Partnership.
David Mulligan
David Mulligan

Head of Workforce Systems and Deployment, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust

David Mulligan is Head of Workforce Systems and Deployment at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. He has 10 years of experience working with workforce technology in different organisations. David is passionate about workforce systems, safe staffing and the use of data to improve services and staff experience.
David Walker
David Walker

Chair of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and a former Guardian journalist

David Walker chairs Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and was formerly deputy chair of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. After a career in journalism with The Times, BBC and The Independent, and as editor of the Guardian's Public magazine, he became managing director of communications at the Audit Commission. Board roles have included chairing communications at the Economic and Social Research Council. He is now an impact assessor for Research England's research excellence framework.
Denis Campbell
Denis Campbell

Health Policy Editor at the Guardian and Observer

Denis Campbell is health policy editor for the Guardian and the Observer. He has written about the NHS, public health and medicine since 2007. In 1999, he joined The Wright State Guardian as a health correspondent and worked there for 15 years. Campbell was educated at Methodist College Belfast.
Edna Boampong
Edna Boampong

Director of Communications and Engagement - Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS

Edna Boampong is director of communications and engagement at Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS. Edna is a multi-award-winning, communications, behaviour change and change management specialist. She has led the communications, engagement and equality and diversity programmes for several large-scale programmes. She is committed to taking positive steps to ensure fair and equitable access to services for all and reducing health inequalities. Edna is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
Fiona Alexander
Fiona Alexander

chief communication officer at University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust and former editor of the Birmingham Post

Fiona Alexander is the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust chief communications officer following 20 years in the media, most recently as editor of the regional newspaper The Birmingham Post. Her portfolio also includes patient and public involvement, reputational management, marketing and FT membership. Prior to this appointment she was Business Development Director (Midlands) for Trinity Mirror plc, the largest publisher in Europe and editor of the Sunday Mercury.
Hugh Pym
Hugh Pym

Health Editor at the BBC

Hugh is the BBC’s health editor. He has been reporting politics, economics and NHS finance for more than two decades. He was a correspondent for ITN and has co-authored several books including Inside The Banking Crisis. Hugh comes from a medical family - his father was a doctor, his brother has pursued a career in research, and his mother was a vet. Hugh was the recipient of the 2020 British Journalism Reviews Charles Wheeler award in recognition of his coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jack Adlam
Jack Adlam

Regional Head of Communications (Midlands), NHS England

Jack Adlam is regional head of communications for the Midlands at NHS England and NHS Improvement. Having started his NHS communications career in 2010, Jack has worked for some of the largest and busiest NHS acute providers in the country, including University Hospitals Birmingham, Nottingham University Hospitals and London North West University Healthcare. With a degree in Public Relations from Leeds Beckett University, Jack achieved a postgraduate certificate in Health Communications in 2019.
James Lyons
James Lyons

Director of Communications at NHS England and NHS Improvement

James Lyons is director of communications for NHS England and NHS Improvement. James joined NHS England as head of media and public affairs in 2017 after a career in journalism. He was deputy political editor of The Sunday Times, having previously held the same position at the Daily Mirror.
Dr Jane Collins
Dr Jane Collins

former chief executive at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Dr Jane Collins qualified in medicine at Birmingham University. After training jobs in Southampton and London, she was appointed as a consultant paediatric neurologist at Guy's Hospital and then moved to Great Ormond Street Hospital. She was appointed chief executive of both Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity in 2001. From 2012 until early 2019, Jane was chief executive of Marie Curie.
Kat Lay
Kat Lay

Health Editor at the Times

Kat Lay is the health editor at The Times, which she joined in 2012 as a graduate trainee. A Health Correspondent for six years, Kat has written extensively on a wide variety of news stories with a significant amount of public interest. She has previously worked at the News of the World and the People newspapers. In 2011, Kat was shortlisted for Young Journalist of the Year at the Press Awards.
Kate Jarman
Kate Jarman

director of communications and corporate affairs at Milton Keynes University Hospital and co-founder of Flex NHS

Kate Jarman is director of communications and corporate affairs at Milton Keynes University Hospital and co-founder of Flex NHS, a movement to promote and enable flexible working in the NHS. Kate has worked in the NHS for more than 14 years, leading communications teams and working across corporate affairs portfolios. Kate is particularly interested in open, inclusive communication and engagement with staff and passionate about equal opportunities and representation for women in the NHS.
Kirk Millis-Ward
Kirk Millis-Ward

Director of Communications and Engagement, Isle of Wight NHS Trust

Kirk Millis-Ward is Director of Communications and Engagement at Isle of Wight NHS Trust and Isle of Wight Council. An experienced journalist and qualified physiotherapist, he is passionate about the role that good communications and engagement plays in improving the quality of public services for local communities. He lives and works on the Isle of Wight where the close-knit community and integrated, small-scale public services present unique communications opportunities as well as challenges.
Liz Jones
Liz Jones

Chief Marketing Officer, Allocate Software

Liz Jones has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare technology. Her most recent role was leading the communications and marketing strategy for Allocate’s UK business where she was proud to oversee the launch of the SafeCare product that is now used by over 160 healthcare organisations. Prior to this, she led the go-to-market for Dynamic Change, one of the UK’s first SaaS solutions for healthcare governance, risk and compliance, where she helped grow the business from start-up to market leader.
Mark Hudson
Mark Hudson

Head of Early Talent at News UK

Mark Hudson is responsible for strategy and delivery of video across editorial, marketing and commercial departments of The Sun, The Times and Wireless Radio Group and is a creative consultant for influencer agency The Fifth. Mark is also the founder of Swooper Media Academy, a charity enabling diverse journalists to find their way into national titles. Mark led The Sun Diversity Trainee Scheme in 2020.
Mary Mullix
Mary Mullix

Director for the North Kensington Recovery (Grenfell) Programme in NHS North West London CCG.

Mary Mullix is currently the director for the North Kensington Recovery (Grenfell) Programme in NHS North West London CCG. Mary is also a nurse (adult and children’s), community practitioner and more latterly a commissioner of a wide range of services to address the impact of tragedy on a community. Mary trained at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and The Royal Berkshire Hospital, which formed the foundation of her career in the NHS.
Millie Banerjee
Millie Banerjee

independent chair of the South West London Integrated Care Systems

Millie Banerjee spent 25 years with BT, in various senior roles including operations, large scale system implementation, product design and consumer service. She is now the independent chair of the South West London integrated care system and a former chair of NHS Blood and Transplant. Millie has held several non-executive appointments including at the Cabinet Office, Channel 4, the Prisons Board, and the Peabody Trust.
Nick Samuels
Nick Samuels

Executive Director at Freshwater Healthcare

Nick Samuels is executive director of healthcare at the NHS specialist communications consultancy Freshwater Healthcare. He has held director of communication and engagement posts for a wide range of health organisations including Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, The National Clinical Assessment Authority, NHS Providers and the Royal College of Physicians. Nick is an honorary research associate at the Centre for Health Communication Research and a recognised expert on reputational issues.
Rachel Carter
Rachel Carter

Associate Director of Communications and Engagement, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust

Rachel Carter is associate director of communications and engagement at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. Rachel has worked in the NHS for 13 years, building and leading communication and engagement teams. She has experience in strategic internal and external communications, including reputation and crisis management, engagement, media, events and campaigns. Rachel is passionate about authentic communication and the difference communication and engagement can make to patient care.
Rachel Royall
Rachel Royall

Founder and managing director of Blue Lozenge

Rachel Royall is a leader in healthcare communications and engagement. She’s founder and managing director of Blue Lozenge, a strategic consultancy in healthcare focusing on support for Integrated Care Systems and complex projects. She has led Board level communications for complex organisations including IBM, NHS, HMRC, Cabinet Office, Department of Health and Social Care and local government. She is also a visiting lecturer at Quadriga University of Science and Technology in Berlin.
Ranjeet Kalie
Ranjeet Kalie

executive director of communications, South London and Maudsley Trust

Before joining South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Ranjeet Kaile held several senior communication roles throughout his career, including as special adviser for the Department of Health and Social Care. From 2013-2021, Ranjeet built an award-winning service at South West London and St. George's Mental Health NHS Trust. He also led one of England's most extensive mental health reconfiguration consultations as part of a £180m Estate Modernisation Programme.
Rupert Clarke
Rupert Clarke

Programme Director, Allocate

Over the last 10 years, Rupert Clarke has led on the effective use of electronic systems to meet complex operational challenges in healthcare including; safe workforce practices, productivity measurement and improvement, evidence-led decision making, targeted key performance indicator (KPI) management, ward to board assurance and using effective rostering to drive bottom-line improvements. He is passionate about the use of technology to drive cultural change and workforce engagement.
Shak Rafiq
Shak Rafiq

strategic communications lead at Bradford Teaching Hospitals

Shak Rafiq is an award-winning communications and engagement professional with over 13 years’ experience within the NHS covering all elements of communications and engagement including media relations, online and social media, marketing campaigns, advertising, internal communications and patient and public engagement. An advocate for inclusion for all, he has written thought pieces on how inclusive ways of working can bring benefits for communities and the wider workforce.
Steve McManus
Steve McManus

chief executive of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

In 2012, Steve McManus took up his post as chief operating officer at Imperial College Healthcare and was appointed deputy chief executive in 2014. During this period, Steve has also been chair of the NHS Providers’ chief operating officer network, and was selected as part of the first cohort on the national Aspiring Chief Executive Programme. During 2016, Steve moved from Imperial to take up the position of managing director at Basildon and Thurrock University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust.


The virtual ticket includes full access to the online event platform on the day and to session recordings for 30 days after the event for you to digest at your leisure should you miss anything on the day. The conference fee covers our costs of running the event.

Book your place

Ticket prices

Early bird (by Friday 25 June) £39
Standard ticket  £50

NHS Communicate awards

We are also running the NHS Communicate Awards in partnership with NHS Confederation and in association with the Centre for Health Communications Research (CHCR).

Designed to recognise the achievements of communicators across the NHS and celebrate innovation in the sector, these brand new awards celebrate teams and individuals who have delivered highly effective communications, to support delivery at a local, regional and national level.

The shortlisted entries will be announced in August and you are invited to join our glittering awards ceremony on the evening of 16 September.


Visit the awards website

Contact us

For more information on the event or awards contact adam.brimelow@nhsproviders.org, daniel.reynolds@nhsconfed.org