Communications and Engagement Strategy

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1 Item 8 Council 6 December 2012 Communications and Engagement Strategy Purpose of paper Action Public/Private Corporate Strategy Business Plan To propose a new Communications and Engagement Strategy for the GDC For decision Public The Council strategy sets out a wide range of organisations with which the GDC needs to have effective relationships to ensure effective discharge of its duties. Decision Trail Recommendations Authorship of paper and further information Appendices At its meeting in September 2012 the Council was advised that the new stakeholder engagement strategy would be presented for the Council s approval in December The Council is invited to consider and approve the Communications and Engagement Strategy Gregory Stafford Head of Public Affairs T: E: Appendix A: Communications and Engagement Strategy Appendix B: Initial EIA Screening Document 1

2 Executive Summary 1. The communications strategy aims to promote the core work of the GDC and is intended to support achievement of the objectives and priorities set out in the GDC s Corporate Strategy. The key purpose of the Communications Strategy is to promote public confidence in dental regulation. 2. The audiences for this corporate strategy include: patients and the wider public; dental professionals; other regulators in the healthcare sector; dental healthcare commissioners, parliamentarians; the media; professional associations, dental defence organisations, dental education and training providers and campaign groups. 3. The Strategy sets out a high level approach to communications and is underpinned by our communications programme of work. Communications and Engagement Strategy 4. The Strategy is attached as Appendix A. 5. The Strategy s core messages are not exhaustive and may be supplemented as necessary to reflect changes in the GDC and its Corporate Strategy. Risk implications 6. The new Strategy is aimed at projecting the GDC's work in a way that enhances its profile as an effective regulator, thereby mitigating the risk of reputational damage. The Strategy also seeks to reduce the risk of ill-informed policy making by proposing effective engagement with the GDC's stakeholders. Public protection implications 7. The Strategy is aimed at building public confidence in the GDC which has the primary role of public protection. Equality and diversity implications 8. Communication and engagement with stakeholders and an understanding of their different needs and positions is critical to enable the GDC to meet its obligations under the Equality Act Policy and Communications implications 9. As outlined in the paper. Legal implication 10. The GDC has a statutory obligation to engage with stakeholders in respect of all legislation it makes, which includes Rules Regulations and Standing Orders and well as SIs and any changes to an Act. Resource implications 11. The resources necessary to implement the strategy are factored into the budget for

3 Recommendations 12. The Council is invited to consider and approve the Communications and Engagement Strategy. 3

4 Appendix A Communications and Engagement Strategy Introduction Good communication is essential for the GDC to engage effectively with its audiences and to fulfil its primary role of protecting the public. As a regulator of dentists and dental care professionals, (hereafter dental professionals ) it is important that we tell the public about our role in protecting their wellbeing, inform and educate our registrants as to the benefits of regulation and what we require of them and communicate our successes to stakeholders. Much has already been achieved. Research undertaken has provided a valuable insight into the perceptions, needs and priorities of the public and our registrants. We are working to increase public and professional awareness of our role. In particular, our activity should focus on explaining to members of the public what registration means, and the importance of checking that dental professionals are registered. The communications strategy aims to build on this work, actively seeking to promote the core work of the Council and is intended to provide support for the objectives and priorities set out in the GDC s Corporate Strategy. The audiences for this corporate strategy include: patients and the wider public; dental professionals; other regulators in the healthcare sector; parliamentarians; the media; professional associations and campaign groups. The key purpose of the Communications Strategy is to promote public confidence in dental regulation. The Strategy sets out a high level approach to communications and is underpinned by our communications programme of work. Current Context and Challenges All the UK healthcare professional regulators are subject to on-going scrutiny by consumer bodies, such as Which, and bodies with a statutory responsibility, such as the Office of Fair Trading. The GDC welcomes the fact that interest groups and the public have more opportunities to communicate their concerns about issues relating to the regulation of dental professionals and we are determined to address those concerns. This will mean however, that communications must be ready for these challenges. The GDC is well versed in informing the dental press with regular editorials, articles and press releases to these bodies. Whilst important, they are rarely elevated to the general public consciousness and we must work to increase our output in this area. Focus on local media which we have started trialling has been successful with articles being sent to regional and local papers about Fitness to Practise cases that have led to removal from the register. National campaigns, such as the media campaign to promote the Dental Complaints Service also raise the profile of the GDC and the work that we do to protect the public. These high- 4

5 impact campaigns should be developed alongside day to day promotion of our work to increase public awareness and a positive impression of the GDC. Whilst the GDC has pretty good evidence as to what registrants and the general public think about the GDC s communication, there are areas where we have little idea of how we are perceived. This is especially true with policy and decision makers with government and this is an area we should focus on. Positive and informed government can only help with getting the messages of the GDC to a wider audience and increase public confidence in dental regulation. All communication across the organisation must be co-ordinated effectively to ensure maximum impact. The current three big consultations whilst well managed should not be seen as an ideal way of working. Different areas of the organisation must understand that the GDC has to prioritise communications and issues that are important to the operation of the GDC but which do not have a direct public interest may not be promoted to their full extent. Technology is also increasing the pace of communications. 24 hour news requires quick reaction to news stories and lengthy sign-off processes often mean opportunities for engagement could be missed. New media such as twitter and Facebook also provide opportunities as well as threats and a number of regulators have embraced the new technologies to interact with public and sector stakeholders. The Chairman of Council has already started a Blog and further work is being done to develop this. The GDC should begin to look how it can use these new media sources. A trial could be done around a single event such as a Conference or Exhibition or even at the launch of a policy change. The way the GDC presents itself is important and the GDC Brand should be promoted by all staff members. Furthermore, whilst the GDC doesn t have customers in the traditional sense of the word, an ethos of customer service should be inculcated in all staff as effective shorthand on how to communicate effectively with our stakeholders. Vision The GDC s vision, set out in the Corporate Strategy, is that effective regulation of dental professionals enhances patient safety, improves the quality of dental care and helps ensure public confidence in dental regulation. We aim to regulate in a way that is proportionate, accountable, transparent, consistent, targeted, and responsive to changing demands, risks and priorities. We are committed to reducing costs through efficiency measures that do not compromise our key purpose of maintaining patient protection. Strategic and operational activities The GDC s Corporate Strategy identifies key external and internal drivers, the organisation s vision and values and sets out six strategic objectives. These objectives include good governance; efficient business processes; communication; to build the evidence base of regulation; influence the policy agenda; and engagement in the four countries. The Corporate Strategy also highlights the work the organisation needs to undertake to meet these objectives. Analyse and respond effectively to patient needs and public expectations to maintain public confidence in dental regulation 5

6 Deliver proportionate and targeted regulation of dental professionals to improve public protection and enable the public to have confidence in dental regulation Ensure that new entrants to the profession are safe to practise through an increasingly integrated approach to the regulation of dental education and training Build partnerships with other bodies and influence the regulation of dentistry to protect patients Deliver cost effective regulation, ensuring maximum efficiency without loss of patient protection. Manage the GDC effectively and support its staff to achieve our objectives The Corporate Strategy references external drivers which influence the work of the organisation. In particular, the regulation of healthcare professionals in the UK is undergoing major change and Government expectations about regulation, as outlined in Enabling Excellence: Autonomy and Accountability for Health and Social Care Staff, relevant to the UK regulation of dentistry, are likely to result in significant changes in the way the GDC operates. Furthermore the Law Commissions have recently consulted on a set of proposals which, if enacted, will provide significant opportunities for the GDC to become more responsive and accountable to patients, the public and other stakeholders. The communications strategy will seek to support the work of the Council and its committees through the communications objectives set out in this paper and the activities detailed in the annual business plans. Communications objectives To achieve the aims of the Corporate Strategy we will have the following objectives: Engage with registrants to increase understanding of the benefits of regulation, the work of Council and what is required of them Extend engagement with the public through improved access to information about the GDC To increase knowledge of patient and public expectations of good dental care Increase awareness of GDC s role in regulation amongst all stakeholder audiences Engage with employers, government, educators, professional bodies and other regulators Continue to build relationships and increase understanding through meetings with stakeholders in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Continue to participate in national, UK and international regulatory forums Ensure employees are informed and updated on all key organisational activities Communications messages In all our communication activities we will promote the following core messages to all our audiences: The GDC s primary role is to protect the public. We are a multi-professional regulator, regulating professionals across the Dental team. We protect the public by setting national standards of education, conduct and performance for the professionals we regulate, by dealing with complaints and by ensuring that health professionals who do not meet our standards are held to account. 6

7 We are a modern, efficient and effective regulator which aims to be at the forefront of professional regulation. We actively contribute to the health regulation agenda and promote good practice and standards. These core messages are not fixed and can be modified in line with changes in the organisation and its Corporate Strategy. We must also be aware of managing the GDC s reputation and taking effective pre-emptive and mitigation actions to preserve confidence in dental regulation. Stakeholder audiences This strategy recognises the importance of continuing to maintain relationships and build on the solid foundations laid over the previous years. We have successfully developed awareness and nurtured relationships with important stakeholder groups. Without the work that has been done in recent years we would not have the foundations required to be able to progress and extend our influence and value across the other groups in our aim to protect the public. We are now in a position where it is time to focus on developing the relationships with other stakeholder groups as well. With such a large and diverse range of stakeholders, the GDC cannot hope to prioritise the communication of its information to all of them. To ensure that its communication is effective, it is necessary to identify key relationships within the GDC s stakeholder audience base. Our current stakeholder groups consist of: Public Members of the public Patients Patient groups Consumer associations Registrants Existing registrants New registrants Prospective registrants Dental Sector Professional bodies Employers Trade Unions Defence Organisations Higher Education Institutions Other education providers and education organisations Other Key Stakeholders Media Politicians from the four nations 7

8 NHS Departments of Health Other health organisations Other regulators Internal Employees Council Associates It is important that we communicate our messages efficiently and effectively with all our stakeholders and the table below sets out the different people with whom we need to communicate. Stakeholders Current Status and Priority Current key issues in the relationship (Reviewed for each Communications Report) Public Primary Stakeholders Confidence in dental regulation FtP cases New Standards Registrants Primary Stakeholders CPD Consultation New Standards Consultation Direct Access Consultation ARF review Dental Sector Secondary Stakeholders and Enablers to influence and contact primary Stakeholders Value for Money CPD Consultation New Standards Consultation Direct Access Consultation ARF review FtP improvements Other Key Stakeholders Secondary Stakeholders and Enablers to influence and contact primary Stakeholders CPD Consultation New Standards Consultation Direct Access Consultation ARF review FtP improvements Changes in legislation Internal Tertiary Stakeholders vital to interact with and influence primary and secondary stakeholders. Transmitting decisions Council and Committee interaction with executive and staff All of these stakeholders are important to the GDC, and have a significant legitimate interest in our work. Some are regulated by us, and therefore have an interest in seeing their work policed effectively and efficiently; others are partner organisations, with whom the GDC must work to deliver its objectives; still others stand to benefit (or suffer) from the GDC s regulatory activity. Many fall into more than one category. 8

9 Over the years, the GDC has developed relationships of some kind with nearly all of these stakeholder groups. Some of those relationships are highly structured, and are monitored and evaluated on a regular basis. Others are more ad-hoc, and have developed in response to a particular need. Some are very robust and well-established; others are new or more transitory in nature. It is one of the recommendations of this strategy that a more structured approach be brought to managing key stakeholder relationships this is not to say that every relationship should be highly formalised, but it is to suggest that all key stakeholder relationships merit regular review and evaluation to ensure that they are delivering the required outcomes for both parties. 1. The ultimate goal is to focus on the purpose of the engagement based on the set of objectives in the business plan and the nature of the individual stakeholder. Engagement will usually be undertaken at Chair/Chief Executive/Director and senior manager level. 2. The planned programme of engagement at a corporate level must cover a full range of stakeholder organisations. 3. The Public Affairs Team will oversee the programme and monitor the engagement in line with the Corporate Strategy objectives. 4. The aim is to present the Council with reports on engagement that have clear objectives and outcomes and an indicator of engagement levels tracked over a period of time. 5. It is important to increase transparency through this report. It is a vital tool to map the GDC s level of engagement with stakeholders and should demonstrate that the GDC is keen to listen and engage actively with outside bodies. Communication Channels The GDC has a responsibility to inform and educate the public and registrants of the work we do. It is also good practice consult other stakeholders, for example when setting standards or issuing guidance. Campaigns Patients and members of the public should have access to information which promotes the importance of using a regulated member of the dental team, and how to check as well as how to raise a concern when things do go wrong. We take a proactive approach when communicating with the public and much of this is undertaken through the public information campaigns. Issue based communications will help to focus attention on the priority areas and involve many of the communication channels listed. Media The media is an important tool, particularly in promoting our work through the online and print channels and provides opportunities to promote the GDC s public protection role. We issue media alerts and news releases based on the Fitness to Practise hearings to promote our public protection role, and we have an on-going programme of releases and articles to the professional press and we issue general organisation wide press releases. 9

10 It is important to refocus our outputs in the media to increase the access to our messages by patients and the public in line with the Corporate Strategy objectives. This will require a move towards mainstream media and a more selective use of the dental press. Digital Online Information The web is an important method of providing comprehensive information to all our audiences in a cost effective and efficient way. We have the main website, as well as the Council extranet and the employee intranet. The website should be reviewed in order to make sure that the key issues of patient and public protection are at the heart of the website and that operational and corporate details take less of a priority. The march of technology makes it almost inevitable that the GDC will have to start engaging via new media. From using Linkedin for recruitment to FtP Panels to the Chairman s Blog to inform registrants and the public, the tools are available to promote our work to a new and often younger audience. This shift in emphasis will almost certainly require a change in ways of working in this team. The Gazette is already schedule to go online next year and it may be appropriate to shift further publications into a solely electronic format. Listening to the public and registrants via these mediums will be a challenge and further work must be done to assess how to use these effectively. A number of the communications team have recently attended courses on social media and it would be appropriate to get their input into the future course of this action. Publications The publications we produce provide an important source of information to all our audiences. Brochures include the Standards of conduct performance and ethics as well as annual reports and information and guidance on registration, tooth whitening, fitness to practise and continuing professional development (CPD). It is important we focus on how our publications protect the public and influence registrant behaviour for the better. Events Events are an increasingly important opportunity for us to engage face to face with all our audiences and provide opportunities to present information about the GDC as well as listen and seek views. We have a programme of Meet the GDC events across the UK which focus on communicating with our registrants, we exhibit at a range of external conferences and have an active talks and presentation programme where GDC employees have speaking opportunities at key conferences and events. There will undoubtedly be a need to continue with events, but we must make sure that they are promoting the messages that the GDC wants to deliver not what certain interest groups demand to hear. Internal Communications All employees play an active role in getting messages to our audiences and should be considered as ambassadors for the GDC. From the Chief Executive to the front desk staff, all staff should be able to communicate effectively with patients and registrants. Our internal communications programme includes the employee intranet, quarterly all employee 10

11 briefings, a weekly e-newsletter, and a press brief which is issued weekly and covers stakeholder news and information. The CAIT staff are also the first point of contact for our stakeholders and it is essential that they are fully updated on issues and lines to take. There should be improved competency of all staff in communications and a greater understanding of the reputational risks of their outputs along with a knowledge of when to seek advice on communication issues. These improvements will help foster a brand of a competent and coherent organisation. There is also a need to improve internal communications about the GDC activity to the staff. A review of how the intranet and staff newsletters are utilised may be needed. HR and the Communications team could use the staff survey to inform further decisions on this. Stakeholder Engagement In carrying out our UK-wide role we work closely with a number of other organisations, including professional bodies, governments, employers and patient and consumer groups. Our stakeholder activities include building relationships with parliamentarians and politicians through face to face meetings and briefings and the dissemination of information to ensure they are informed of our public protection role. It is important that we understand the challenges of the devolved administrations and handling of engagement these groups will be subject to a further review based on learning from Scotland. The Director of Scotland will be a key player in understanding these challenges. As stated above, we also have a co-ordinated approach to other key stakeholder groups, particularly employers and professional bodies through the development of events, briefings and information on the website. Implementing the communications strategy The aims set out above, and the direction they set, may seem self-evident. However, they do represent a shift in emphasis for the GDC, which is underpinned by focussing on production of an output or activity to emphasis on the benefits or outcome to target group(s). In communications terms, the strategy requires the GDC to focus less on: The number of communications we issue The number of people who receive or view them The success of our delivery mechanisms and more on: The number of people who regularly rely on our information The number of people who change what they do in response to the information we produce e.g. registrants The contribution which the information we produce makes to protecting the public How engaged and committed stakeholders are towards us successfully protecting the public The high-level aims above are therefore the strategic gauge for new communications activity. 11

12 Put simply, if a communication is not demonstrably contributing both to the GDC s Corporate Strategy and business plan and to the delivery of one of the communications objectives, then we should robustly review whether its continuation is justified. It is our expectation that some existing communications activity will cease or reduce, and indeed this has already been the case. The Public Affairs Team and Council will be supported in the delivery of the communications strategy by the Director of Policy and Communications and the Head of Public Affairs who will: oversee the implementation of the communications strategy; monitor the delivery and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy; and advise the Council on the strategy. It should be recognised that whilst the communications strategy is the primary contributor to delivering recognition of the GDC s public protection role, the consistent high quality delivery of operations and activities is also an essential factor in how the organisation is perceived by its key audiences. The Communications Team is responsible for the day to day management of the strategy and its related annual work plan; however, the success of the strategy also rests with the Council, Executive and the whole organisation. It is proposed that all our communication will be: Accessible Accurate Clear Honest Open and transparent Professional Timely Compatible with equality and diversity legislation In accordance with the GDC s house style and visual identity Meet Plain English guidelines where applicable Measurement and evaluation The effectiveness of the communications strategy and the communications team annual work plan will be gauged through continuous measurement and evaluation, including: feedback from GDC events; participation and evaluation of exhibitions; attendance and feedback from talks, presentations and conferences; web statistics; market research; opinion polling; and press coverage. A communications report which incorporates the current Stakeholder engagement report could be produced for each Council meeting. The purpose of this report would not be to 12

13 inform Council of the minutiae of the detail of communications activity but to highlight areas where we have effectively implemented the key objectives of the Strategy and any areas that still require improvements. The GDC s strategy is to continually improve the organisation, and the information gathered through this measurement will be used to formulate further activities and strategies. 13

14 Appendix B Section 2 : Initial EIA screening Please use the following template to help determine whether an equality impact assessment (EIA) is required. Name of the policy: Communications and Engagement Strategy Directorate: Policy and Communications Name of policy owner Gregory Stafford Job title Head of Public Affairs Date 21/11/12 Does the policy require an EIA? Please answer the following questions. 1. What are the main aims, purpose and outcomes of the policy? To set the strategic direction of our communications and engagement with stakeholders. 2. Who is expected to benefit from the policy? The GDC will benefit from greater strategic engagement with a focus on improved communications with patients and public. 3. Who implements the policy and who is responsible for the policy? All staff members, overseen by the Public Affairs team. 4. Is it likely that the policy will have any relevance to our duty to: a. eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act b. advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not c. foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not d. remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics e. take steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people f. encourage people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where there participation is disproportionately low? No. 5. What evidence do you have to come to this conclusion? This is a high level strategy. Our work on the above areas is already being progressed by the Public Affairs team and will not be affected by this strategy. 14

15 6. Are there any aspects of the policy, including how it is delivered or accessed, that could actively contribute to inequality? No. 7. Do you consider that this is either a major policy or a minor policy with a major impact on equality? This is a major strategy. If the policy is not relevant to an aspect of the organisation s activities or to its legal responsibilities, there is no need to conduct an EIA. If your answers to questions 4 or 6 above have identified potential effects and you have answered yes to question 7, then you should carry out a full EIA. Before proceeding with the EIA you should consider the scope of the assessment and discuss this with colleagues if necessary. You should then move on to use the full EIA template to carry out the assessment. Is an EIA required? NO Initial screening has been checked by the Director or designated manager Name Job title Date 15

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