Transformative communications for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust


East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust enlisted Freshwater to provide strategic advice on several projects during a challenging time for the organisation as a whole, as well as during a period of structural change in its communications department.


audience segments identified as part of a strategic communications and engagement plan


Months of seconded support on-site to lead and restructure communications for the organisation


integrated channels used to effectively communicate changes to the Emergency Care Centre


Freshwater was brought in by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust to provide a year of strategic leadership and support for its communications team during a time of change for the department, and challenge for the whole organisation.

The Trust faced obstacles including:

  • Financial challenges amounting to a £37million deficit
  • Increased pressure on staff due to financial constraints
  • A lack of investment in its estate
  • Challenges to recruitment and retention of staff
  • A growing and ageing population.

Following an ‘inadequate’ rating by the Care Quality Commission in 2014, the Trust also faced significant pressure to improve its care quality and was placed into special measures.


Freshwater took an integrated approach to creating and implementing a communications and engagement strategy in preparation for the downgrading of the Trust’s Emergency Care Centre to an Urgent Care Centre at Kent and Canterbury Hospital. To do so, we identified, targeted and engaged our audiences of patients, patient groups and the local community, the media, political stakeholders as well as health and care partners, universities, charities, governors, non-executive directors, Trust-wide and A&E staff and GPs.

The flexibility of our approach meant we were able to take on several other projects at the Trust. These included a thorough audit of the Trust’s communications function and effectiveness. Our report to the chief executive laid out our findings and recommendations on how to improve the way the Trust engaged with its audiences, which were adopted and further adapted according to need over the course of our work with the Trust.


By successfully implementing the communications strategy, patient service changes took place without significant objection and were implemented without disruption. Our planning enabled a successful dialogue between the Trust and its stakeholders through a variety of channels, including briefings to MPs and councillors, engagement with patient organisations, face-to-face briefings with staff, visually-engaging posters and other informational materials, and new content for the Trust’s website, through to handling media enquiries from the BBC.

By leading the Trust’s communications team successfully, we implemented our recommendations, which included a full restructure of the department, recruiting a new director of communications and providing onsite support.

Freshwater also led the communications approach to the Trust’s Care Quality Commission re-inspection in 2015, seeing it move up one rating to ‘requires improvement’ amid fair and balanced media coverage. Our strategic programme included engagement with communities and patients; MPs, local councils and healthcare partners; overseeing reputation management, media relations and staff communications. Our in-house team supported this work by creating videos at the Trust and designing publications to communicate with both staff and the local community.

Nick Samuels

Director of Healthcare
0207 067 1595


East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

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May 2015 - September 2017