LAS appoints comms chief with mission to empower staff and build partnerships

London Ambulance Service (LAS) has appointed Antony Tiernan, one of the architects of the successful NHS 70th birthday celebrations, as its director of comms and engagement.

Antony Tiernan aims to empower staff, build partnerships and increase volunteering at LAS
Antony Tiernan aims to empower staff, build partnerships and increase volunteering at LAS

Tiernan, who will take up his new job at the UK’s "busiest" ambulance service in late August, has spent more than 20 years working in health across the charity and public sectors – the bulk of that for the NHS.

He joins LAS from NHS England, where he has spent the past four-and-a-half years in high-level strategic comms roles.

Earlier in his career, Tiernan spent 12 years as the director or deputy director of comms at three major hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London.

Commenting on his reasons for taking the LAS job, Tiernan told PRWeek: "After four years with NHS England I wanted to take the experience I gained back to a frontline role – if it’s possible to call it that when you’re working in comms."

He continued: "I could think of no organisation I would rather work for than LAS – it’s the only pan-London NHS body, with a massive workforce, and I saw this job as an opportunity and a challenge."

Comms priorities

The LAS workforce of 5,700 people, working day and night across 83 sites, has informed what Tiernan regards as the comms priorities for the service.

He said: "My first task will be to get to know the people. It's not easy to say: 'We're having a meeting to tell everyone what’s going on,' and then get your feedback and your engagement. It will be about internal comms and engagement."

Tiernan continued: "You can’t do the outside comms until you’ve done the internal comms. So for me it’s about getting my head around how to do that and empower and support staff to be advocates for the organisation and the brand."

Another priority will be to bring the recently launched LAS strategy to life.

Under the plan, LAS will work with other public sector organisations, such as local authorities, different elements of the NHS and the London Assembly, in greater partnership than ever before.

Tiernan said: "It will be about how LAS can deliver the best care to London and improve the working lives of staff."

Some needed the tools, some needed encouragement and others just needed permission.

Incoming LAS comms chief Antony Tiernan 

NHS70 role

Tiernan is currently NHS England’s director of communications for improvement and development, with responsibilities for the organisation’s digital comms and publishing as well as its comms relating to the UK’s proposed exit from the EU.

Before this, Tiernan was the body's director of comms and engagement for NHS70, leading a core team who brought together a series of campaigns to celebrate 70 years of the NHS.

Reflecting on his time running that team, which numbered just four people, and how it played into being chosen to lead comms at LAS, Tiernan said: "I’m sure it helped. One reason was that we had to deliver a lot with only a few people. It was all about empowering and supporting people. Some needed the tools, some needed encouragement, and others just needed permission."

He continued: "LAS needs to work with people from across London to deliver, and an 'engagement and partnership' approach is fundamental to that."

Volunteering campaigns

At LAS Tiernan will lead a team of 20 people across media relations, digital comms, internal comms and the new task of increasing volunteering across the service.

The service already has a volunteer 'community first responders' scheme, and the aim will be to increase volunteering by using campaign tactics.

This is part of a wider drive in the NHS, detailed in its Long Term Plan in January, to increase the number of volunteers.

While increasing volunteering will give the NHS more support, the volunteers will also gain something by getting people out of the house and reducing loneliness, among other benefits.

Tiernan said: "It’s volunteering in the sense of giving something back to the NHS, but it’s also about people getting something good out of it too."

Garrett Emmerson, chief executive at London Ambulance Service said: "I am delighted to be able to welcome Antony to our organisation and to my leadership team. He has a wealth of NHS communications experience, and that is exactly what we need to bring our staff, public and wider NHS engagement to the next level."

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