When the board of trustees of an Oxfordshire hospice had to make some fundamental decisions about how they delivered care, they needed to move quickly. Katharine House Hospice had decided to explore a potential partnership with the NHS through their local Foundation Trust. Although the move would bring a number of advantages for patients and families, they needed to be communicated with care and consistency in order to reach a number of audiences at the right time.
The hospice turned to Lime’s Insight and Strategy and PR teams to devise and implement a phased communications approach that spanned pre-announcement all the way through to completion of any agreed transition. The plan both informed those audiences of what was being proposed, and at the same time reassured them that the care they currently provided would continue in the years ahead.
The number of audiences to be communicated with – together with a tight timeframe – meant specialist senior support was required quickly. We recommended an overall comms strategy, with key messaging tailored to each audience, which allowed us to account for the bigger sector picture whilst remaining sensitive to local issues and feelings. Changeable legal requirements meant we needed an agile approach, with the announcement date being altered a number of times. We dovetailed with the NHS Trust’s comms team to create a roadmap to guide all of the work streams to ensure every deadline was met. The work involved the production of printed materials, briefing papers, letters to stakeholders, presentation slides for the senior team, video, website copy, social media content and advice, and media relations.
Covid meant that no public meetings were possible, so we also produced briefing papers for staff and trustees, to cover questions they might be asked by patients and their families.
When news of the proposed partnership was made public, we ensured the hospice team had everything in place to provide to local media, including press materials, which were briefed in ahead of the announcement, and positive coverage was achieved in print, online and on local radio. Media training had been put in place for key senior staff ahead of any materials being sent to the press.
Very few negative comments were received, indeed we captured supportive material for use as part of our work. Where comments or concerns were raised, we supported the hospice team, who dealt with them via a dedicated online facility, where questions and comments could be raised.
The ongoing impact of Covid on both the NHS Trust and Katharine House Hospice (and the resources they have available) has meant that timescales continue to be flexible as they progress through the partnership process, and we remain equally nimble in our support.
Justine Williams, director of fundraising and communications at Katharine House Hospice, said: “Whilst the requirement on what support was needed was clear, it needed a structured and disciplined approach, particularly because a lot needed to be done in a relatively short period of time. That meant flexibility within the programme of work, and the agility to respond quickly and to bring creative solutions when they were needed. Lime quickly took a proactive role in project planning, and kept across budget management through the entire process. They established themselves as an extended part of my team, and grasped the language that we used and the designs that were needed when it came to generating materials. I’ve genuinely no idea what I would have done without their excellent support!”