February Associate Breakfast – Summary

Last Thursday morning was the first Clarity Associate meeting of 2021, and an opportunity to introduce three new members to the team:


Suzanne Langdon – Suzanne has 15 years experience of delivering pan-European projects, and is our corporate function change specialist. She also swam the English Channel in 2017, raising some money for the RNLI in the process.


Toby Johnstone – Toby joins Clarity having recently completed a Master's degree in Physics. Currently supporting our internal bidding and marketing teams, Toby is experienced in research, data visualisation, and in turning large quantities of data into easy-to-understand reports. He also runs half marathons, apparently to wind down.


Alicia Sawyer – As a language specialist having recently graduated in Modern Foreign Languages, Alicia is an effective communicator with proven leadership skills and experience working in teams both national and international. Unfortunately for us, shortly after joining Clarity, Alicia was also offered a role working with numerous global household food brands. She leaves for her new position at the end of the month.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, during the meeting there was a focus on the ongoing pandemic response, split into three main discussion areas:




Managing Covid A System View

A project is ongoing in support of the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership through the response, recovery and restoration phases of the pandemic. Coming together in a time of national crisis has forced the system to put the patient first, quickly overcoming any negative political behaviours.


By setting up clear, clinically-led governance processes, Clarity have been able support the system in opening and maintaining effective communication channels which give senior executives and clinicians clear visibility of system pressures. Specifically through the setup of an SDU and Tactical Operations Centre (TOC), the system has been able to grow accustomed to working together, with open and honest conversation about daily challenges, coordinating a huge effort across organisations by focusing on a single shared set of outcomes.


Covid Incident rooms

Thea Maxwell and Sarah Hate shared their experiences of supporting incident control/coordination rooms for the South East and South West regions, respectively.



Thea discussed the rapid pace with which the SE coordination centre was required to mobilise, with processes being designed on-the-job by necessity. She detailed the huge resource demands of covid incident coordination during successive waves of the virus, highlighting the 500+ emails per day requiring triage and resolution at peak times, and the ramp-up of team members required from 20 in supporting the first wave response to 40 in the second. Thea illustrated the operational running of the coordination room, giving detailed insight into how the pandemic response is managed at a regional level.


Sarah reflected on the set up of the SW virtual operations room, highlighting key learnings:

  • Reflect on previous learnings – Clarity staff have covered most winter rooms at one time or another during the last few years. By pooling this learning they were able to design a mature approach, avoiding making any one mistake twice.

  • Stakeholder and staff engagement – By removing written reporting processes in favour of daily catch-up calls, the control team were able to minimise administrative burden on providers while still being able to give support and maintain assurance.

  • Information and data flow – Need to identify system control points and key indicators to alleviate pressure and identify likelihood of fallover before it happens.

  • Communication – Regular dissemination of key national messages. Regular contact with leadership and across the team to ensure staff are supported.

  • Coaching, upskillling and empowering staff – there is a need to take stock around core competencies required to successfully resource incident control rooms, and for a clearly defined skillset, recognising that this is a highly-demanding environment. It is also key to ensure all staff feel supported through regular interaction and feedback.

  • Continuous evaluation of processes – continuous looking forward and reviewing learning to date throughout crisis response is essential to improving processes.

  • Knowledge transfer and handover – in the SW a team was recruited to work alongside the response team, to be upskilled and trained on the job. It's essential that lessons learned are captured before these regional incident control teams are stood down.



Covid Positives of the response

Jane Stairmand lightened the mood with a list of positives to have come from the pandemic response, illustrated through the example of a current evaluation of transformation funding being undertaken in Wales.


  • Innovation – projects have found new (and old) ways to engage with people outside of events initially planned before the pandemic. Operational teams went to their key audiences, in this case young people, creating laminated info sheets which could be easily photographed, containing key phone numbers and websites where they could find help. Networks have stepped up support for the third sector, delivered food parcels for the homeless, and supported vaccination programmes.

  • Behaviour change – Digital solutions have had to surge forward. What might have taken years has in many cases taken weeks to roll out, with statutory bodies working in partnership with technology suppliers to find and test solutions rather than having a traditional supplier-purchaser relationship.

  • Ways of working – engagement plans have had to adapt to reach the local population through other channels. Governance and decision making processes have been streamlined in a way that is sustainable for ongoing post-pandemic adoption.

  • Accessibility – virtual delivery of engagement events has meant that many more members of the public and of the education system have been able to engage with learning activities, without the cost- and time-prohibitive factor of travel.


Other key items raised

The health service has been operating in 'crisis mode' for a prolonged period of time. There is a significant need to shift this crisis response mentality into one with the capacity to focus on long-term population health management and prevention, to make the shift from reactive to proactive.


Mental Health was highlighted as a significant challenge and a priority for coming years. The long-term implications of the pandemic and of social isolation are yet to be seen, and failure to invest in the Mental Health workforce over time has resulted in a national resource and capacity issue at a time when we will need it most.<