Leading Healthcare Awards 2022: four of the best examples of communication and engagement

The Leading Healthcare Awards finalists have all delivered projects and programmes with a high quality of communication and engagement. Here, we take a look at the work that has gone into these projects, and the outcomes experienced.

Medway NHS Foundation Trust

The first of our finalists is Medway NHS Foundation Trust, who rolled out their Electronic Patient Record (EPR) to 24 wards and 1000 users, in less than five months.

The Medway team made it a priority to engage stakeholders across IT, operations and clinical to make sure that everyone was aligned to the same goal. Leads from different areas could all contribute their expertise. Doctors and Nurses were given the opportunity to become a Digital Doctor or Nurse for the duration to allow them to commit and focus on the project, which in turn helped them become familiar and proficient at using the system when they returned to clinical work, maintaining strong communication between the clinical and programme teams.

The trust communicated the EPR roll-out as a cultural change project, making it easier to engage support from all areas. The aim was to learn from each other to build the most effective blueprint possible. The team referred to themselves as the ‘clinical transformation workstream’ and held weekly meetings to ensure that relationships were being built and nurtured to share learning.

To help train staff how to use the technology, the learning process was turned into a fun competition with prizes available for the fastest teams, which enabled the trust to train more than a thousand users in a very short space of time. The presence of digital colleagues on the ward when the system went live also meant that there was someone on-hand to support and encourage staff. Clinical leads and other digital champions have made it their mission to communicate and reinforce the benefits with colleagues who had worries or apprehensions about the changes.

Shortly before the system went live, a ‘dress rehearsal’ was conducted to help staff feel confident and pre-empt any potential issues. As a result, the roll-out went very smoothly.

With the system now live, ward teams are being proactive and communicating with IT every day to make sure they are working compliantly within the system, requesting data to see how they can improve. The continued touchpoint between programme and clinical teams have ensured compliance with the system and improved uptake.

Wirral University Hospital Teaching Trust

The second of our finalists in this category is Wirral University Hospital Teaching Trust with ‘Keep It Simple’, through which the Communications and Engagement Team worked to protect patients and colleagues by preventing the spread of infection in the trust’s hospitals.

The team worked in collaboration with their counterparts in the trust’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team of specialist nurses and matrons to develop an innovative, clinically-led campaign, with the aim of raising awareness for all types of infections, not just COVID-19.

The six-week campaign ran across all the trust’s sites and used simple messages to communicate information about infection prevention and control to staff, patients and visitors, including brightly-coloured posters, banners in hospital entrances and an interactive competition for staff. The acronym SIMPLE focused on six key weekly themes: surveillance (detecting outbreaks); invasive devices (helping to reduce bacteraemia and infection); multi-disciplinary groups (working together to provide patient care); PPE (wearing the right level for the right task); lessons learnt (reflecting on a patient’s journey to learn from it); and environmental cleanliness (maintaining a high standard across the hospitals).

The campaign was successful in supporting IPC work, due to strong clinical content, using the language of healthcare professionals, and was directly relevant to many of their daily tasks. It was also eye-catching and colourful, using a visual identify that linked in with the Trust’s vision and values.

Inspectors from an unannounced CQC inspection in February 2021 deemed the ‘Keep It Simple’ communications an example of outstanding practice. They also found that the trust had a good open culture to raise concerns and a variety of ways to do so, and that leaders were visible and approachable to staff and patients. Communication and learning were found to support patient safety across the Trust.

Aided by the communication programme, all but one infection rate declined significantly in 2020/21.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG (NHS)

Next up is Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG (NHS), who put staff engagement first to ensure that their people were set up for success during challenging times.

When the government specified a need for remote working in March 2020, the CCG set two core objectives: to ensure staff were being supported to bring their whole self to work from home, and to help them feel connected to the organisation and informed throughout the pandemic.

The strategy focused on listening to staff. To enable this, a weekly temperature check was launched to expose any problems or issues, promoted via all staff communication channels. This helped the CCG understand concerns and to evaluate staff feeling. Results were shared with senior leadership on a weekly basis and were reviewed by a core group including a sample of representative staff, to identify issues and implement solutions.

Internal communications activities were based on the live feedback, and a direct correlation between staff concerns and reducing anxiety levels was noted. The staff newsletter was reviewed and a section for business-critical input added. A working group with a dedicated email account was set up to respond to staff questions; between March and July 2020, more than 140 questions were answered and four webinars were hosted to give staff the opportunity to ask questions to senior managers.

From the beginning, a ‘single source’ of truth was created on the staff intranet: a repository of information including national guidance, corporate messages, FAQs and guidance on HR and home-working. This section developed with more resources created as the pandemic evolved.

A staff wellbeing programme was launched which took many forms to address all aspects of personal wellbeing; for example, virtual events and activities were set up to let staff socialise, a fitness challenge was created to motivate staff to keep moving, and a photo gallery was set up so that staff could share photos from their walks outside. Activities focused on ensuring consistent support for mental health, stress and resilience, physical health and wellbeing, and social connection.

East London NHS Foundation Trust

Our last finalist is East London NHS Foundation Trust, whose online Learning Activities Programme supported staff whose children were learning from home due to the third lockdown.

A recurring theme from staff during the pandemic was that it was difficult to work from home whilst also supporting their children’s home-schooling. To help, an online Learning Activities Programme was launched with the support and collaboration of many colleagues across the Trust – People & Culture, Functional Skills Coordinator, People Participation Team, Marketing and many more.

Three teachers were engaged to begin with, which later extended to five to cater for an expanding timetable of activities on offer. The teachers flexibly supported the delivery of learning activities for staff children ranging from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4, with interactive activities and live sessions delivered via Zoom.

The programme was available for all staff in the organisation who had children learning from home. Staff from all professional groups across all areas of the Trust took part. The Communications team shared information relating to the programme regularly, with a focus on the timetables so that staff could book their children in. Over 1500 children took part in the activities across the 7-week period, and attendance rose from 77 children in the first week to 300 by the last. Feedback was very positive from both parents and children.

The programme demonstrated the Trust’s focus on supporting staff to provide the best care. It was an excellent morale booster and helped staff feel cared for, as a major difficulty with remote working was being acknowledged and a solution found.

At NHS England and Improvement’s request, the programme was shared via webinar with approximately 20 trusts across the country, to provide the basic framework and guidance along with experienced advice.