NHS Communicators’ Emotional Response to the Covid 19 Pandemic: The experience of another front line

Anne Gregory, E.M.M. Davies, Bill Nichols, Urszula Wolski

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


This report sets out the findings of research undertaken to investigate the emotional impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on senior NHS communication professionals.
In-depth research with 15 senior communicators discovered six principal ‘triggers’ which evoked strong positive or negative emotional reactions; working from home, long hours, social media, technology more generally, command and control, and professional recognition. These emotional triggers did not act in a binary way: social media was regarded as a large positive in reaching certain stakeholder groups, but its unremitting nature created levels of stress.
The emotional reactions these triggers generated traversed the continuum from stress and anxiety, guilt, frustration and anger, inadequacy, isolation, pride, excitement and elation and a growing sense of confidence.
These senior communicators took a variety of actions as a result, from varying degrees of compliance with the apparent ‘rules’ to proactive pushing back and setting their own agendas and ways of working with or without the support of senior leaders or ‘the system’.
Emotional support for this group was patchy to say the best. Some were well supported by senior managers, others found peer support groups and others felt alone and disillusioned to the extent that they will leave the service.
The individuals involved have reflected and learned from their experience and have developed a series of system-wide, team and personal recommendations which the research team have added to and categorise as clarity, professional recognition and leading through complexity.
The overall conclusion from the research is that the communication cadre of the NHS, while not currently recognised as being on ‘the front line’ were and are indeed workers on a different front line. As such, a set of measures is required to ensure they are properly supported in any future pandemic.
Practical recommendations arising from this work include a significant review and revision of Command-and-Control policies and procedures; greater coordination through the NHS system; acknowledgement that communication is part of the front-line defence in such national emergencies and therefore requires similar levels of resourcing and recognition; and the creation of a professional association for NHS communicators to both champion and facilitate best practice in the profession.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'NHS Communicators’ Emotional Response to the Covid 19 Pandemic: The experience of another front line'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this