Neil Crump
Aurora’s Neil Crump

What is Neil Up To?

If you follow Aurora co-owner Neil Crump on social media, you’ll have noticed that as well as the world of healthcare communications, he’s also been talking about BOB.health and the spread and scale of ideas and innovation in the NHS. What’s going on? Has he quit Aurora? What’s Neil up to?

We’ll let him explain…

“I love seeing a problem and fixing it. I am genuinely blessed to have two business partners in my life, Claire Eldridge and Marc Southern, who both want to work with me to tackle interesting dilemmas in the healthcare space. Without their kindness, I wouldn’t be in the fortunate position to be able to follow my desire to attempt to fix problems through different businesses. I’m still very much involved in Aurora and am also 18 months into another business venture. Have a read of the Q&A below to get an overview and, if you are interested, have a read about my journey with Aurora, our network, the UK trade association for healthcare communications and BOB.health.”

Here are a few Q&As about what I’m up to…

Q: Are you still involved in Aurora?
A: Very much so, Aurora is a business that I’m 15 years into and love dearly. I work one day a week in the business at the Board level alongside some mentoring and teaching with our new starters and junior members of the team. Claire Eldridge, the other owner, has the full reins of the company, and as the other owner, I support her in whatever she needs.

Q: So how much time do you have for BOB.health?
A: All the rest of my time is focused on BOB.health. 2020 is a pivotal launch year for the business – which is supporting every stakeholder in the NHS to learn from each other about how to make change happen on the ground. My focus is on working with change-making NHS staff and organisations, as well as forward-thinking NHS suppliers, to realise the platform’s transformational potential.

Q: Are you involved in your global communications network, GHPR, anymore?
A: Aurora continues to lead the European GHPR offering, and this is staffed with a first-class team. While I am no longer involved in the day-to-day, I am in constant contact with our partner agency owners from across the world, many of whom are now my friends. After 12 years, Claire is now the owner with the focus on our network.

Q: Are you still involved in the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA)?
A: Yes, I lead on governance for this not-for-profit organisation. I will be doing one further year in this voluntary role as the HCA goes through an exciting transformation with a new ambition and three-year strategy. Others will take on the governance aspects through 2020, allowing me to step back.

Q: So, is there anything else major work-wise happening in 2020?
A: Kind of yes, Claire and I are also planning to launch a further patient-focused business in 2020. Claire is doing the heavy lifting here with me in the background as support. More details will be announced on this new consultancy.

My journey explained… the joy of tackling problems

Creating Aurora
Back in 2005, fed up with seeing the short-term view of the agency model of churning through staff and clients to make money, I thought there had to be a better way. So in May that year, on Endell Street, London, I popped Claire Eldridge the big question, and she said yes, and I’m so pleased that she did. That ‘yes’ led us to plan for one or two evenings a week until September when we resigned our jobs, launching our healthcare specialist agency: Aurora Healthcare Communications at the PMEA awards in December 2005. Claire talks about how we started Aurora together in this video…

I am tremendously proud of the business that Claire and I have built – a great team thriving in an influential culture based on sound values, which means that we’ve ridden through the natural bumps of running a business. Aurora attracts tremendous clients who want to make a difference in the lives of patients. Ensuring patients access innovation and proving that we’ve achieved that is what Aurora is all about.

We’ve helped clients on some inspiring innovations, including some stand-out ones like fingolimod in multiple sclerosis for Novartis, a medicine that we worked on for an amazing nine years. Having clients where you have this long-view of the relationship and getting to see things through is a huge privilege.

Going global
In October 2008, we were approached by a network of independent agencies called GHPR to be considered as the UK partner. We were up against fierce competition from seven more established agencies with much higher headcounts than our merry band of eight. We got the top score and were able to choose to join the network (we got the news in the multi-story car park of MSD at their Hoddeston office). I led on our partnership and Aurora became the lead co-ordinating HQ for Europe. This meant we could fix global problems for our clients, not just with insight but also the ability to expertly deliver in-market. GHPR is fantastic, and our owner colleagues, now firm friends, around the world have been phenomenal.

Looking at the problems in the system
In 2015, Aurora decided as a business to take a system-level view of the challenge of patient access to innovation in the UK; looking beyond the patient population and healthcare professional dynamics of a specific medicine to the macro-level problems that impact uptake.
Calling the initiative Access All Areas, we focused on how people from across the system (NHS, industry and patient groups) can work together to ensure patients secure access. We did qualitative research, compiled a paper through the lens of system thinking, and held a meeting with stakeholders to highlight our findings. The seven dependencies we identified make for a good read in this report and are:
• Leadership by example
• Planning for alignment
• Contextual decision-making
• Real-world data
• Collaboration and governance
• Patient involvement
• Best practice sharing

Aurora has acted upon three of these dependencies…
Through 2019 into 2020, Aurora is focused on ‘collaboration’. We’ve been award-winning in creating active collaborations, and through a series of report chapters, we’ve explored the context and power of them.

In 2017, Aurora formalised our patient involvement and engagement service into a client-ready offering. How do you get big corporations to listen, learn and act upon the insights of their end consumer, who they typically never interact with? Again, this work has been award-winning, and above all, we are proud that we’ve consistently brought the patient to the table.

And then we come to best practice sharing. This is the topic that I’ve got obsessed about. How do we solve the problem that: when starting an NHS project, big or small, NHS staff find it hard to discover the experience and practice of other people who have delivered something similar. This means that people end up reinventing the wheel over and over again. This is inefficient and indeed diverts time and resource away from patient care. That’s where BOB comes in.

BOB.health takes flight
I have blogged about the origins of BOB.health here. In short, we took a concept that a team at Aurora created, and along with Marc Southern, my co-founder, set-up a new business and raised investment to solve the problem of best practice sharing in the NHS. As an aside, Claire is an investor in BOB.health and sits on the Board.

At BOB.health, we are creating a free-to NHS platform to help people capture impact stories, a new class of case studies, on any change that they make in the system. Lifting the *how* of the change out of silos so that others can learn from it. The business is two-sided model whereby revenues from NHS suppliers make the platform free for everyone in the NHS. Read more about that here or have a listen to this Brandcast health video (below) of Marc and I speaking at last October’s GIANT health innovation conference…

The final word…
Thanks to everyone, especially the Aurora, BOB.health, HCA and GHPR teams, which have enabled me to tackle so many problems in the healthcare space. I appreciate the faith and encouragement you give me. Huge hugs to my partners in problem-solving – Claire and Marc – thanks for making this possible and so much fun.

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