Monthly Archives: October 2020

gk - Doing nothing is ‘no longer an option’

Doing nothing is ‘no longer an option’. With social care on the precipice, Boris Johnson urgently needs to outline a clear long-term vision.

By GK consultant and social care policy expert, Jack Sansum 

15 months have now passed since Boris Johnson stood outside Downing Street promising to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. While there have been numerous rumours emanating from Whitehall that plans are finally starting to take shape, concrete plans for reform have yet to be proposed.

As cases of COVID-19 rise and the Government scramble to gain a sense of control over the virus, now may not seem like the ideal moment for Johnson to think about the longer term. The pandemic has laid out in stark terms the need for social care reform, and as the UK enters a second wave of COVID-19 infections, it is essential that the Government finally sets out a clear long-term vision to deliver care both during and after the crisis.

Promises, promises…

The starting point of all discussions concerns the quality of the delivery of care and the system. The government wants to improve the quality of care, while generating greater stability and capacity within the system by encouraging more providers into the market. The co-ordination of provision between the NHS and social care is central, with Greater Manchester – where resources are pooled – seen as a model of best practice for the rest of the country.

While there is agreement on a number of key issues, there is growing frustration at government inaction from within the social care sector, and heightened calls for a long-term strategy. Care England Chief Executive Prof Martin Green has been particularly vocal on the issue. During a recent evidence session of the Health and Social Care Committee’s workforce burnout and resilience inquiry, Green outlined to MPs that there had been ‘endless’ discussions about integration but a lack of vision.

Green’s calls have also been echoed by Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission, and the Health and Social Care Select Committee, who have urged the government to provide an emergency boost of £7 billion a year to prevent the system from collapse as the pandemic pushes the sector towards a funding crisis.

The ‘magic of averages’

For social care, the past 20 years have seen a plethora of promises but ultimately inaction in policy terms. By contrast, NHS spending and output has grown more quickly than the population. Without long-term planning, health and policy will continue to lack coherence.

The funding mechanism will be crucial in underpinning a long-term plan for social care. While addressing the recent Conservative Party Conference, Johnson outlined a plan to bring “the magic of averages to the rescue of millions”, causing many to infer he was considering a National Insurance style system to pay for the costs of care.

It has also been reported that Ministers have considered a personal cap on care costs and the introduction on a specific social care tax. The government is also said to be considering revisiting the 2011 Dilnot report which suggested there should be a cap on the amount which anyone should pay for their care in their lifetime, fixing the figure between £25,000 and £50,000.

A clear vision?

COVID-19 has elevated social care reform into an urgent policy priority for the Government. New policy and legislative proposals are likely to be examined by a new health and social care taskforce and DHSC, providing significant scope for social care providers to shape the structure and mechanisms of the plans.

To engage with the Government’s plans for reform effectively, organisations will need to understand the wider direction of health and social care policy. Health and social care is GK Strategy’s largest policy area and we are experts at supporting organisations who are operating in highly regulated sectors and helping them to navigate complex markets and build relationships with key decision makers.

For more information or if you would like to speak to the GK team, please contact Jack Sansum at

gk - COVID-19 and the looming mental health crisis

COVID-19 and the looming mental health crisis

By Ian Perrin, Senior Account Manager and health specialist 

Despite your views on the current Government and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, understanding the UK’s coronavirus plan is an impossible task. I say that as someone who follows politics day-in and day-out. For people who work in industries unrelated to politics and Government, who work in small businesses, in schools, or on the high streets, trying to understand what is happening in our world right now is a nightmarish challenge. People the country over are suffering the constant anxiety caused by social restrictions, being told they are behaving recklessly, by relatives and loved ones falling ill, by struggling to get tests, worrying about their children in schools and about weddings, funerals, holidays, mortgages and – last but certainly not least – the security of their jobs.

This autumn has seen the worst of it all. During the summer, the UK enjoyed an August and September of lower COVID transmission rates, lower hospital admissions, and lower death rates. The government urged workers back to their offices, children back to schools, and individuals to drive the economy forward. But never far from the radio waves, the TV screens and the newspapers were voices ready to frighten the public about the long winter on the horizon, the infamous second wave threat, and the winding down of the furlough scheme. They were also subject to terrifying graphs, tellings-off about their demand for COVID tests, and threats about the availability and efficacy of potential vaccines. Rather than building public confidence in the UK’s handling of the crisis, the Government urged the public to take what was well and truly a leap of faith. Unsurprisingly, we are now in a position of national confusion, with confidence in the Government’s response dropping from over 70% in April to just 32% in October. 

With this cocktail of anxiety, is it any wonder that some are thinking about the looming crisis facing our country’s mental health? The comedian Ruby Wax became one of many names highlighting the issue, going so far as to say the mental health crisis will be ‘the next pandemic’. 

While the physical health of our nation is a priority, the effects of COVID-19 on mental health must not be ignored. Physical health and mental health are not mutually exclusive, they are interrelated and both are fundamental to good management of the other. Now, as our health system prioritises management of physical health, more than one in 10 patients are waiting six months for mental health support, and experts say the waits could ‘get a lot worse’. 

Organisations across the health system, including patients and campaigners, must amplify the voices of the few who are highlighting the looming mental health crisis, such as MIND, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and MPs such as Dr Rosena Allin-Khan. The time is now to work with senior decision-makers in the Government and parliament to both highlight the issue but also to bring forward solutions that can prevent a collapse of the country’s mental health. If the Government, parliament and the National Health Service understand the scale of the challenge ahead, and the potential course for recovery, decisive action can be taken to mitigate the damage that awaits us, not just in the winter but through 2021 and beyond. 

We would be delighted to continue this conversation with organisations, providers and campaigners who are engaging Government on the mental health response to COVID. If you would like to discuss this further, please do email me on or call GK Strategy on 020 7340 1150.

gk - How is the ambition for NHS transformation being impacted by COVID19’s ‘new normal’_

How is the ambition for NHS transformation being impacted by COVID19’s ‘new normal’?

GK Strategy is frequently asked to outline the landscape of healthcare spending and reform, what services will see increased demand over the next decade and whether the coronavirus pandemic will accelerate or inhibit wider transformation within the NHS. We are also asked how the role of private providers might change and how they can best anticipate and address changes
in commissioning and service delivery.

In this blog, GK Consultant, Joe Cormack examines these questions to show where there is alignment between COVID related changes and longer-term plans to develop a more sustainable healthcare system.

Download the full piece here: How is the ambition for NHS transformation being impacted by COVID19’s ‘new normal’

GK - partner of I have a voice

GK Strategy becomes founding partner of I have a voice

By Jenni Hollis, Head of Client Services, GK Strategy

Ever walked into a meeting room or networking event and felt different to those around you? Ever been mistaken for a waitress, when you’re actually the campaign manager? The latter happened to me in a previous role, and I’ve heard plenty of similar tales over the years. All excruciating, all exposing a burning need for change.

While heaps of improvements have been made, diversity in politics, political parties and political professions remains far too low. To make matters worse, many young people feel increasingly alienated by a political world that they don’t understand, and by people that simply don’t look or sound like them.

More needs to be done to improve diversity within our industry and UK politics more generally. That’s why, here at GK Strategy, we are thrilled to become the founding partner for I have a voice.  

Run by the brilliant Rebecca Deegan, I have a voice is a social enterprise aiming to empower diverse young people to engage with politics.

Through its Youth Ambassador programme, I have a voice has already engaged a vibrant and diverse pool of young people, who are now more enthusiastic about the PR and political communications profession.

Nearly all of I have a voice’s ambassadors are female and around 40% are from BAME backgrounds. They are all from non-fee paying schools, based in different areas of the country. I was so happy and impressed to hear about their current advocacy campaigns on disability rights, fast fashion and diversifying the curriculum.

Rebecca is already engaging with schools across the country to grow her network of ambassadors. She’s also seeking to facilitate work experience programmes, so that these diverse candidates gain exposure to, and have a route into, the sector.

GK Strategy will take part in I have a voice’s work experience programme, and our team will contribute to the schools’ outreach. We will also provide pro-bono media and branding support to raise the profile of this fantastic initiative.

We encourage other agencies and organisations in our sector to get involved too. In return for support from businesses, I have a voice will promote work experience and internship opportunities to their network and give your staff the opportunity to engage with the stars of the future.  

You’ll also get to contribute to one of the biggest challenges our industry faces: how can we give the best advice without the broadest set of perspectives in the room?

Shaking up our industry to ensure diversity, and therefore the best possible political advice, is no mean feat. There are no silver bullets – and senior hires alone won’t solve the problem. It will take time to recruit and train more diverse, entry-level candidates, and for them to become the leading consultants and managing directors of tomorrow.

Rebecca’s initiative is one of the vital first steps in this mammoth task, and GK Strategy is delighted to be standing by her and supporting her as I have a voice’s founding partner.