New network for ICS communication and engagement leaders launched

New network will support communications professionals to work in new, innovative and integrated ways.

9 June 2021

The NHS Confederation is launching a new network for ICS communication and engagement leaders as part of its growing offer of support to local systems.

The ICS Communications and Engagement Forum will provide the first dedicated network of its kind to ICS communications and engagement leaders. 

It will provide a platform for communicators to come together to share ideas, best practice and learning, as well as thought leadership on the future development of the communications profession. It joins other forums for ICS leaders that have been established by the NHS Confederation, including forums for chairs, executive leads, programme directors, workforce leads and mental health leads.  

An election will be held for two weeks from late June to select the first chair and vice-chair of the forum. The NHS Confederation has written to ICS communications and engagement leaders and is inviting expressions of interest. 

The first forum event will be held in July and will focus on communications and engagement operating models for local systems. Each local system is in the process of developing their approach to communications and engagement ahead of April 2022 when they are expected to become statutory bodies. 

Our forum will support communications professionals across the health and care system to work in new, innovative and integrated ways.

Daniel Reynolds, director of communications and membership operations at the NHS Confederation, said: 

“We believe that effective communications and engagement play a crucial role in supporting integrated care systems, and the partners that make them up, to achieve stronger relationships, more open and transparent ways of working, greater trust, more engaged staff and, ultimately, better outcomes for the public. 

“As with other areas of health and care, the pandemic has helped to remove divides between communicators working in different organisations. Our forum will support communications professionals across the health and care system to work in new, innovative and integrated ways. There is much good practice to build on and we look forward to sharing learning and connecting ICS communications and engagement leaders as we move towards local systems becoming statutory bodies.”

The forum will provide opportunities for ICS communicators to hear from experts in other industries and sectors and provide a formal route through which ICS communicators can develop thought leadership on the future of the communications profession. The forum will also help ensure they are updated on national policy and political developments.

As members of the NHS Confederation, all ICS communications and engagement leads are invited to join the forum by emailing Sarah Miller, assistant director of communications.

NHS Confederation support to communicators

The creation of the forum follows a number of recent activities in which the NHS Confederation has been increasing its support to communications and engagement leaders in integrated care systems and the partners that comprise:

  • In December 2020, the Confederation published Building common purpose: Learning on engagement and communications in integrated care systems. A group of ICS and other communications leaders, chaired by the Confederation, examined local integrated care systems that have been successful in communicating and engaging across local communities, staff and the full range of partners that comprise their systems.
  • In recent months, the Confederation has been supporting a local integrated care system with its communications and engagement operating model.
  • We recently announced the launch of a new annual conference and awards for health and care communications leaders. NHS Communicate Conference and Awards, delivered in partnership with NHS Providers and The Centre for Health Communications Research, will take place on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 September 2021.

The conference and awards followed a successful partnership between the three organisations which resulted in new research into the pandemic and how it has changed communications practice.