REPORT TO THE SCOTTISH AMBULANCE SERVICE BOARD COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY. Report by Shirley Rogers, Director of Human Resources and Clinical Development

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1 REPORT TO THE SCOTTISH AMBULANCE SERVICE BOARD COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY Report by Shirley Rogers, Director of Human Resources and Clinical Development ABSTRACT This paper summarises the key aims, objectives and actions set out in the draft Scottish Ambulance Service Communications Strategy. RECOMMENDATIONS The Board is asked to: 1. note the development of the draft Communications Strategy 2. support the ongoing development of the Communications Strategy 1. Introduction A draft Communications Strategy has been developed for the Scottish Ambulance Service which sets out the Service s approach for communicating with the following key target audiences: Internal (staff) Patients, public and the media Managing strategic relationships Overarching This paper summarises the key aims, objectives and actions set out in the draft strategy. The paper outlines how the strategy will be further developed following further consultation with key stakeholders and the outcome of the Board s Strategy Day in January. 2. What do we want to achieve? In delivering communications, the Scottish Ambulance Service will seek to meet the NHS Standards for Communication and ensure that our communications are clear and professional, straightforward and accessible, modern, honest and respectful and cost-effective and collaborative. The Communications Strategy is for a three year period and aims to: 1. Provide direction and focus to internal and external communications. Page 1 of 8

2 2. Develop the capacity of the Scottish Ambulance Service to communicate effectively and consistently with key audiences. 3. Protect and enhance the reputation of the Scottish Ambulance Service. 3. Our objectives and how we will achieve them The Communications Strategy identifies twelve key objectives to ensure that these aims will be achieved. The objectives are set out below for each key audience, together with the key actions identified in the strategy action plan Internal (staff) Effective internal communication is essential in supporting the delivery of effective staff governance, keeping staff well informed and involved in decisions which affect them. Research shows that there is a direct link between high performance and staff motivation and effective internal communications is essential in achieving organisational change and development. Effective internal communication is essential in developing a sense of belonging and commitment and, in doing so, has the potential to create an influential network of community ambassadors for the Service. Objective 1: To implement and embed internal communications channels which promote and support the delivery of transparent, effective and two-way communications and engagement with all staff groups. The Scottish Ambulance Service recognises that no one channel will meet the requirements of all staff, particularly given the diversity of the workforce. A multi channel approach to internal communications will therefore be developed. Key actions: Redevelop and re-launch SAMSON (intranet). Improve copy/consistency of National Bulletins. Produce Response magazine (annual review). Explore divisional/emdc newsletters. Internal communications mailbox (two way feedback). Review and improve distribution channels. Introduce a team brief cascade. Objective 2: To support effective organisational development by involving and informing staff in planning and delivering change and developing new ways of clinical working. The Scottish Ambulance Service recognises the importance of involving and informing staff to gain ownership and acceptance of change. Change teams Page 2 of 8

3 are an established and effective method of achieving this and will continue to be developed for all major change programmes as part of comprehensive communications plans. Key actions: Robust communications planning to support change. Communications Manager will support the development of communications plans for major change programmes. Develop standard communications plan template and guidance. An annual audit/assessment of communications plans to identify opportunities for improvement. Explore ways of increasing face to face communications. Objective 3: To promote and support the delivery of clear and consistent communications across the Service, ensuring messages are in line with the Service s direction and values. Communication activity should support the Scottish Ambulance Service s objectives and at every opportunity seek to remind audiences of our aims and objectives. Regular and consistent repetition of key messages will help to increase understanding. Key actions: Communicate and engage with staff to support the development of the future vision and strategy. Develop core information. Collate and update key facts about the Service. Publish compliments on a regular basis. Objective 4: To support managers to communicate effectively and comply with staff governance standards, keeping staff well informed and involved in decisions which affect them. There is a need to increase the capacity for direct communications, particularly face to face, between staff and managers. All managers should prioritise communicating with their staff and should: 1. use a range of channels to ensure the regular and timely delivery of operational and management information 2. ensure that current and important issues are communicated in a timely and ensure that staff can contact them 3. put in place robust mechanisms which encourage two-way dialogue 4. ensure that they have regular contact with staff and that staff can easily contact them This will be monitored through the Annual Report by the National Partnership Forum on compliance with staff governance standards. Page 3 of 8

4 To support managers and ensure that all communications meet high standards of clarity and consistency the following support will be provided. Key actions: Introduce a monthly core briefing and ad hoc briefings as required. Training for effective communications with staff will be provided as part of the Service s leadership programme. A range of tools will be developed to support effective communications for example guidance notes on team briefs, use of Plain English Patients, public and the media The Scottish Ambulance Service recognises a growing need to communicate more effectively with its stakeholders, particularly patients and the public, about its strategies, successes and areas for improvement and to capture their views on these issues more successfully. Objective 5: To increase patient/public awareness and understanding of the Service through the provision of clear, consistent and accessible information about the Service. Key actions: Develop a range of targeted literature which supports patients to access and raises awareness of Scottish Ambulance Service services. Use pro-active communications to communicate key messages in a targeted way to key audiences. Objective 6: To create a strong web presence which supports the vision and enables ease of access to all groups including patients (to assist in accessing services) and the media. The Scottish Ambulance Service recognises the website is a key channel for communicating with patients, the public and the media. Our aim is to create an up to date and dynamic website, a key channel for communicating the Service s key messages and initiatives and providing patients with the information they need to access services. Key actions: Review the design and navigation of the website and develop its functionality. Update content and maintain the currency and effectiveness of the site by updating the home page on a weekly basis. Ensure that the website is accessible (AA). Market the website as a key channel for information. Establish a programme of user testing to inform improvements to the site. Page 4 of 8

5 Objective 7: To promote and support effective communication and engagement with patient groups and local communities to explain what services we provide and in planning and delivering changes to services. The Scottish Ambulance Service will seek wider and more representative public involvement through the implementation of the Service s Patient Focus and Public Involvement Strategy. Effective communications will support the implementation of the strategy. Key actions: Identify key patient and local community groups and establish a programme of regular meetings. Develop the capacity of managers to community effectively with local communities though the provision of a programme of training in communications covering presentation skills and media training. Where operationally possible, the Scottish Ambulance Service will participate in local events and activities. Promotional materials will be developed to support staff attending events. Pilot open days as a means of engaging with patients, local communities and other key stakeholders. Objective 8: To respond quickly and professionally to media enquiries and generate positive media coverage to promote trust and confidence in the Service. Whilst continuing to respond effectively and robustly to enquiries, planned media relations activity should be increased to support change and development. This should be supported by the development and ongoing maintenance of a communications forward planning grid through which communications will be planned and co-ordinated. Key actions: Work with managers and EMDC supervisors to raise awareness and provide training. Respond quickly and professionally to media enquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Continue pro-active programme of briefings and press releases. Press releases will be published on both the website and SAMSON home pages as a way of communicating good news to staff, patients and the public as well as the media Managing strategic relationships Good relations and levels of interest are essential in ensuring the Service retains positive working relationships with key partners including MSPs and Page 5 of 8

6 MPs, the Scottish Government, Health Boards, Community Health Partnerships, Local Authorities, Police and Fire. Objective 9: To develop and maintain strategic relationships with key stakeholders at national, regional and local level. Key actions: Pro-actively provide key briefings to the Health Committee. Continue to contribute to meetings of the Regional Planning Groups. The Service will continue to meet regularly with Health Boards. Liaise with CHPs on a regular basis (six monthly) and, where operationally possible, will participate in meetings when issues arise. Where possible, the Service will participate in community planning meetings where relevant. Objective 10:To enhance understanding that key stakeholders have about the Service Raising awareness and keeping people informed will support the development of key relationships at a national, regional and local level. Key actions: Respond to all Parliamentary questions. Establish a programme of six monthly meetings with MSPs and MPs and explore options for inviting other key stakeholders (CHPs, Health Boards etc). Quarterly e-newsletter with key national updates and local updates. Continue to publish the Annual report in line with Government guidance and circulate to key partners Overarching How we communicate directly impacts on how the public and our partners judge the Service. Whilst the Scottish Ambulance Service is not a private company, the principles of brand and reputation apply: clear, consistent messages, a recognisable look and feel to communication and the credibility that comes from delivering on our promise to our stakeholders. Objective 11:To develop and maintain a corporate identity for the Scottish Ambulance Service which is representative of a modern, professional ambulance service. As impressions are influenced by a corporate appearance it is essential the Scottish Ambulance Service presents itself in a single, corporate manner Key actions: Establish a look and feel for the Service. Page 6 of 8

7 Communicate and engage with key stakeholders to support the development of the future vision and strategy for the Service. Align the design of key publications Develop library of photographs for use in key publications. Develop materials to support the presentation of the Service including a corporate presentation template, corporate backdrops, standard templates for newsletters. Develop a style guide which ensures that the use of language and design is consistent across the Service. Objective 12:To improve the quality and consistency of internal and external communications across the organisation. There is a need to develop the capacity across the organisation to support effective communications across all stakeholder groups. Communications is most effective when it is planned for at the start of a process. Opportunities can be identified and reactive communications minimised. Key actions: Establish a corporate communications team. Establish a team of divisional/regional communicators. Identify and share best practice. Explore the use of the Crystal Mark or Service communications. 4. Evaluation and improvement Evaluation arrangements have been identified for each of key deliverables in the Communications Strategy Action Plan. Ongoing feedback from audiences will inform continuous improvement and development, as well as information from key surveys including the NHS staff survey undertaken every two years and the annual Scottish Ambulance Service patient satisfaction survey and focus groups. Progress will be monitored on an ongoing basis by the Communications Forum and reported to the Scottish Ambulance Service Board on an ongoing basis through the report by the Director of Human Resources and Clinical Development. In addition, a number of specific reviews will be undertaken: User testing of intranet and website An annual review of the effectiveness of National Bulletins will be undertaken focussing on distribution and penetration of key information. Review of Response magazine to ensure that it continues to be fit for purpose and represents value for money for the Scottish Ambulance Service. Page 7 of 8

8 An annual audit of communications plans will be undertaken. Monitoring of media coverage will be undertaken to establish positive, negative, local/national press and broadcast coverage. The Strategy will be reviewed following one year of implementation (April 2010) by the Director of Human Resources and Clinical Development to ensure that continues to be fit for purpose and meet the requirements of the Scottish Ambulance Service. 5. Resources Key to delivery of the Strategy is the development of a corporate communications function and, in the longer term the creation of a divisional/regional team of communications officers. In addition to staffing, costs have been identified for the deliverables in the action plan and an indicative annual budget requirement of 40,000 per annum for the delivery of the Strategy is identified. 6. Next Steps The Board is asked to note the development of the draft Communications Strategy. The draft Strategy will be circulated among key stakeholders for feedback and further developed to include key messages following the outcome of the Board s Strategy Day in January. Page 8 of 8

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