No shortage of challenges

So, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a pretty terrible year, punctuated by some fantastic good news about the vaccine last week.

While we’re all keen to be positive and optimistic I think there’s a growing recognition that there are still some very hard days ahead especially as winter pressures and another potential wave of Covid19 hits the sector in the new year.

That said the vaccine news is hugely welcome and the improved treatments and survival rates for coved should also give us huge confidence for the future. 

As chair of the NHS Providers comms leads network I want to again say a huge thank you to NHS colleagues right across the whole country for the amazing work of the past 12 months.

Thanks also to Adam, Lisa, Jordan, Nicki & everyone at NHS Providers for their support and tireless work during the pandemic.

It was fantastic to hold one of our national network sessions, albeit virtually, and hear from NHS comms people from across the country.

If you couldn’t make either this one or our first virtual session earlier in the year both will be available as podcasts on the website.

The session enabled us to get the usual strategic update on issues across the system and it was notable just how much recognition there now is on the importance of comms from the very top.

There’s no shortage of challenges around managing expectations, winter, a growing mental health crisis, possible financial downturn, the spectre of Brexit and of course covid.

Delegates heard just how important partnerships have become especially now the pandemic has accelerated the need for much more coordinated system working by a huge range of partners. This will only continue in the coming months.

There were also some excellent tips on managing teams and stakeholders virtually in a world increasingly dominated by Zoom and MS Teams.

Aside from the usual agenda I asked for your feedback, views, thoughts and ideas about what it’s been like and where we could be going. Here’s what you told me….

Staff morale

Morale/ fatigue/motivation/burnout. Sadly, these all came through strongly in your messages and in the breakoutsessions. Managing wellbeing and mental health seems more important than ever and is a huge challenge especially as we see growing demand for comms. 

What happens to business as usual?

You highlighted a general lack of time for non-covid workwith other important communications and engagement needs often bypassed. There’s a growing backlog of business as usual work.

There’s also little opportunity to develop or train people in the way we’d normally like to.

Changing mood?

Many are preparing for a potential changing public mood about the NHS if people aren’t getting the care they need or become frustrated by delays. The longer this goes on the more it will start chipping away from the huge universal support in the summer.

Local vs central

Many of you reported some genuine concerns that command and control arrangements from the centre have been far too inflexible and at times slow moving. Local relationships with public and staff have at times suffered, especially when hearing things first through the media. The lack of a local voice has felt counterproductive.

Brexit

Clearly an area of concern for many especially with all the current uncertainty. 

Thanks again for all your contributions to the event as well as your messages and feedback. To end on a positive note here’s a special thank you film for NHS staff that we made in the North East.

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