Hospital comms director appointed deputy chief executive of NHS Trust

Laura Skaife-Knight has been appointed deputy chief executive of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust in Norfolk following a 15-year comms career.

Laura Skaife-Knight, deputy chief executive, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust
Laura Skaife-Knight, deputy chief executive, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust

The new role could prove challenging for Skaife-Knight, who has left her job as director of strategic comms and engagement at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, because the Trust she is joining has been in special measures since last year. 

She began her new role this week, with external stakeholder relations, comms and staff engagement among her responsibilities.

Skaife-Knight reports to chief executive Caroline Shaw, who was previously the deputy chief executive at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The size of the team and budget that Skaife-Knight will be directly responsible for are yet to be decided as the portfolios across the executive team are being reviewed.

Failing Trust

A damning report on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, by the Care Quality Commission in July, warned: "We found significant concerns and risks to patients within the urgent and emergency service, medicine service, end of life care and gynaecology service."

It also noted "examples of poor communication in the service that impacted staff morale" and said: "The trust must ensure there is effective communication and multidisciplinary working with external providers and stakeholders."

The report stated: "The trust must improve staff, patient and public engagement and communication."

New team

Skaife-Knight's appointment is part of a series of recent changes to the Trust's management team, which includes the arrivals of Shaw as chief executive, Professor Steve Barnett as chairman, and Libby McManus as chief nurse.

Self-belief

The new deputy chief executive told PRWeek that while it is unusual for a comms director to make the jump to deputy chief executive, having a background in comms "gives you a really good foundation to go into general management and ultimately chief executive roles, because you've had the privilege of being involved in pretty much everything across the organisation".

Skaife-Knight hopes that other comms directors will be encouraged to follow in her footsteps and said it is a matter of "having the confidence" to try to make the move.

Mission to succeed

Skaife-Knight described her new Trust as a "a hugely challenged organisation" and told PRWeek that her "initial priorities are staff engagement and developing a new five-year strategy" for it.

She added: "We are an organisation that is in special measures and between Caroline and I, hopefully the combination of our experience and the executive team that Caroline is putting in place will be able to turn the organisation around."

In her view: "Effective comms and engagement is absolutely at the heart of moving us to a better place."

Path to promotion

Skaife-Knight started out in journalism, working for two years as a news reporter at the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, before embarking on a career in comms.

This started with a job as media comms officer at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in 2004. After two years she was promoted to acting comms manager, before leaving to spend a year as head of comms at Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Skaife-Knight has spent the past decade at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, where she started out as comms manager and received a series of promotions that culminated in her becoming director of comms and external relations in 2014 – one of the youngest comms directors in the NHS.

Her LinkedIn profile states: "I have a reputation for making things happen, getting results and developing teams and individuals." 




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