On The Level PR Ltd (OTLpr) has won a contract to provide in-house communications, marketing and engagement services for one of the country’s most successful NHS trusts.
The contract with East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) is for up to five years and is worth around £2.5m. As part of the deal, OTLpr would take on the existing six-strong trust communications team. ELFT is one of only 10 trusts nationwide to be rated ‘outstanding’ by the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and was Health Service Journal (HSJ) Trust of the Year in 2016.
On The Level PR, founded by managing director Steve Gladwin in 2015, will be the first private company to take on a trust’s in-house communications function. PR firms currently provide extra support to trusts in the form of campaigns, design and digital support, but no NHS body has previously sought to contract out the entire service
Steve Gladwin, who is himself a former senior NHS communications director, said: ‘This is a challenge and a privilege. I greatly admire ELFT’s ambition and OTLpr is very excited about taking the Trust’s communications to the next level. I know a lot of eyes in the profession will be on us to see whether we can make this work. We’re determined we will not only make it work but that it will become a model for NHS communications at a time when most trusts are under severe financial and reputational strain and are trying to get more for less. The aim for OTLpr is to build NHS communications at scale without losing the personal touch that clients cherish.’
He added: ‘There are some great communicators in the NHS. They have been battling for years with reduced team sizes and budgets, a lack of investment in training and an increased workload caused by the strain the NHS as a whole is under. Many trusts are already looking to either cut their communications services further, merge it with other trusts or through the process of creating integrated care organisations with local authorities and other health bodies locally. All of these will make it harder for their distinct voice to be heard. At OTLpr, we will make sure their voice is not only heard but is heard loud and clear through innovation and use of best practice, through investing in our staff’s skills and development and knowing what the NHS is about and what needs to be done.’
Mr Gladwin concluded: ‘I am delighted to be taking on six talented members of the current ELFT communications team. These are very exciting times for them as well as for OTLpr. Together we will be a brilliant combination of staff who know the Trust well and a PR company with the strategic vision and ambition to make a difference and give them the skills and tools they need to do the job.’