As part of the project plan, it is important to have a communication and engagement strategy setting out the key stakeholders, such as internal stakeholders and decisions makers (e.g. members), user groups, providers, local infrastructure bodies, local MPs etc. The main aspect of this will be the use of a variety of methods and channels of communication, and communication that is prompt, regular and honest and consistent across the whole process.
Our research found that there was little or no communication from commissioners. Where there was communication, it was often poor and documentation was often minimal, unhelpful or vague. This further entrenches positions and can be a barrier to developing solutions and a smooth decommissioning process.
Telling people clearly what you are doing, when you will do it, when decisions will be taken (and how they will know what they are) are all important. And if you don’t know these things, let people know this too. There is a risk that people think things are happening but are shrouded in secrecy or that they are being excluded.
The need for a communication plan ties in with clarity over roles and responsibilities (and see ‘Governance arrangements’), especially in relation to supporting staff and users to avoid damaging reputation and undue impact on service users.