Making time to make a difference

Being busy has become the norm for so many of us, both in work and at home. Workloads increase, deadlines loom, and it’s easy to let the less “pressing” tasks or activities fall by the wayside. Like most people, we’re guilty of this from time to time, and need to plan accordingly to fit in the “non-urgent” stuff, around reports, projects and proposals.

Something we’re committed to at IFF is providing a positive work culture, where our team are engaged and are given opportunities to develop, both professionally and personally. This summer we found a great opportunity to help us achieve that, and which felt like a great fit, linking to our values of being human first and making a difference.

“At the end of the Future Frontiers project, all the young people were enthusiastic and excited about their future careers and it was great to be a part of that.”

Teaming up with charity Future Frontiers, who support disadvantaged young people, 20 IFF-ers from around the business took part in a career mentoring programme for a group of 15-year olds from Kemnal Technology College near Bromley. Running over 4 weeks, the programme offered our team the opportunity to listen to and work with young people during a pivotal time in their academic and future working careers.

Taking time away from our day jobs took a bit of juggling, but Future Frontiers provided loads of support to ensure we were supported throughout and felt comfortable in the programme.Future Frontiers and IFF working together

IFF Associate Director Gill Stewart remarked “I felt prepared for every session, thanks to the resources available – the handbook, the coaching portal and the videos…. It was a lovely thing to be involved in.

Reflecting on her participation in the programme, Mirella Scott, Qualitative Research Manager said:  “I remember what it was like when I was that age, with all the choices laid out before you. When I was at school, making these decisions for myself, and the advice that helped me along the way. The  opportunity to volunteer shows that IFF is interested in helping people with their career and having a positive influence in their lives.

It does make you think about other important things in life and reflect on your own journey through school and starting out in your career. And thinking back – what advice would you give to your 15-year old self?

Other staff agreed that “making time” to break away from the routine of work was really valuable and   found that working with young people was refreshing and energising. The success of the programme was in no small part related to the support that Future Frontiers provided: the use of electronic tablets, links to resources – and even the graduation party; with support from our People team.

Graduation ceremony with Future Frontiers

Reflecting on the opportunity one volunteer said: “Everyone takes ownership and personal responsibility of their work at IFF, so being able to step away from the intensity of your work and take time to do something like this was brilliant. From the start through to graduation, seeing the student preparing to work toward a goal that you’ve influenced, and to work with a young person individually was very rewarding”.

Looking back, the programme was a great opportunity for personal and professional development, and something we’d highly recommend. A wholly positive experience for our team (and we hope for the young people too), it’s been great a great reminder of the value of making time to invest in our People. As well as reiterating how lucky we are to have a great team around us, and give us the opportunity to make a difference.


IFF’s stakeholder perception audit report published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council

The report draws together the views of some of the NMC’s most senior partners – including chief nursing officers, government policy makers, trade union representatives and leaders of organisations representing public and patients – and will inform the 2020 – 2025 strategy of the organisation.

Most stakeholders felt that the NMC is on the right trajectory, having been making gradual improvements since c.2012 and being well placed to continue with positive change. However, it was felt that positive initiatives and changes are not fully embedded throughout the NMC and that more work needs to be done.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the new Chief Executive of the NMC, summarised the key take-outs as follows in her recent blog:

  • Partners believe we need to continue focusing on being more transparent and open, as well as being more proactive in explaining our priorities.
  • Communication must improve with all of those we come into contact with.
  • A strong message that the four countries dimension of our work needs to be a clear and unambiguous priority for us.
  • There was also a sense that we could do more with the role we have and the information we hold to influence the health and social care world and support nurses and midwives to deliver better, safer care.

To find out more, click here for the full report.

IFF’s report on Corporate Strategy and Stakeholder Research published by the General Medical Council

The GMC has published research from patients, healthcare bodies and doctors which will be used as a baseline to measure the impact of its corporate strategy. It shows that confidence in the profession and in regulation among patients and the public remains high: 88% of patients and the public are confident in doctors, and 84% are confident in the way doctors are regulated. However, three in four doctors lost some confidence in the GMC over the last 12 months, in the wake of the Jack Adcock/ Dr Bawa-Garba case.

Over nine in ten stakeholders felt that their overall working relationship with the GMC was good, but there is scope to improve this further by listening and communicating direction of travel more effectively.

The data will help inform progress against a number of the aims underpinning the GMC’s corporate strategy, including:

  • Supporting doctors in delivering good medical practice for patients
  • Strengthening collaboration with regulatory partners
  • Strengthening relationships with the public and profession

The research was undertaken in August and September 2018, and heard the views of more than 3,300 doctors, 2,000 members of the public and 50 stakeholders through online and telephone surveys.

Paul Buckley, Director of Strategy and Policy for the GMC, highlighted the importance of the research to the organisation, saying “It’s vital that we listen to the profession in order to improve their working lives and patient safety”.

Click here for the full report

A healthy future for healthcare research

IFF’s innovative healthcare offering sees recognition and expertise is in high demand.

Last week IFF’s Health and Wellbeing team were nominated for the MRS Healthcare Research Award for work conducted as part of a dementia pilot project for the Department of Business Innovation and Skill (BIS) in partnership with Loughborough University – Click here for details.

This nomination rounds off a brilliant year for the development of our healthcare offering and highlights how our Health and Wellbeing team are breaking new ground in their approach to the kind of projects we love to work on, those that make a real difference to peoples lives.


Healthcare research continues to be area of great importance for the public sector and shows no signs of waning as questions remain over government health care policies and efficiency in the NHS.

Our Health and Wellbeing package has grown in recent years and been given a renewed focus. We have added experience to our ranks and developed a greater understanding of the unique benefits we offer such as our ability to access many hard to reach audiences and offer flexibility in our service.


Our new look healthcare team are by no means inexperienced and their expertise has been in high demand as of late. Healthcare research directors Mark Speed and Matt Barnes have been busy presenting research into attitudes to the NHS complaints handling process at conferences around the UK and will be sharing their findings at next weeks ‘NHS Patient Complaints: Improving Your Response to Support Patients & Staff Conference’ next week.

See the full presentation here:

For more information on our Health and Wellbeing team visit our sector page here. To speak to a healthcare expert Call: 02 07250 3035 or Email:

Bridging the gap between mental and physical healthcare

Government invests almost a billion pounds in funding aimed at putting mental health in the UK on equal footing with physical health.

The announcement in January by David Cameron of just under a billion pounds pledged to mental health, marks the first time a Prime Minister has made mental health the main theme of a speech, and that should be regarded as a milestone for mental health.

The funding for this ‘mental health revolution’ will be focused on:

• £290 million to be spent by 2020 helping 30,000 more new and expectant mothers with mental health issues.
• Services expanded to ensure teenagers with eating disorders get faster treatment, and a new waiting measure to track the amount of time before patients are seen.
• £250 million over the next five years to embed mental health services in every hospital emergency department.
• A £400 million investment in crisis resolution and home treatment teams to operate 24 hours a day as an alternative to hospitals.
• A new waiting time target, meaning at least half of those experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks.

The importance of mental health is becoming increasingly recognized, with recent statistics showing that this year alone, one in four people in London, will develop a problem such as anxiety or depression and suicide is presently the leading cause of death for men under 50. Cameron’s pledged funding is a positive step but it remains to be seen as to whether this will be enough to address the core issues around mental health. Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, the mental health charity released a statement in support of the funding, saying:

“The Prime Minister rightly recognises some key priorities that have been identified by the mental health task-force, which will soon be publishing its full report. Children and young people, pregnant women and new mums, and those in crisis urgently need better services and support.”

The other key focus of Cameron’s speech was the importance of creating an open dialogue in the UK about mental health and reducing stigma. In his keynote speech, the prime minister said:

“Mental illness isn’t contagious. There’s nothing to be frightened of. As a country, we need to be far more mature about this. Less hushed tones, less whispering; more frank and open discussion. We need to take away that shame, that embarrassment.. I want us to be able to say to anyone who is struggling, ‘talk to someone, ask your doctor for help and we will always be there to support you.”

If this announcement has any implications for your organisation IFF can help you plan for the future through bespoke research. Contact our Health and Wellbeing team today using the details below:

Call: 020 7250 3035


How can insurers convince businesses to offer Private Medical Insurance as a benefit?

IFF’s exclusive research sheds light on the opportunities for providers.

For a long time now Private Medical Insurers have been wondering what they have to do to appeal to the business market. A major obstacle for providers has been communication and knowing what can be done to convince business owners of the benefits to taking up private medical insurance schemes for their employees.

Of the 500 businesses we spoke to as part of our latest Business Omnibus 88% of do not provide PMI for their employees, a statistic that is somewhat surprising if you consider the increasing pressures being put on NHS resources. With waiting list’s getting longer most employees would surely welcome the introduction of this type of benefit but there seems to be a stigma around the value of these schemes from an employer perspective and doubts around the level of uptake that would be seen from employees if PMI was to be offered.

What do businesses want from PMI providers?

Our findings have shed some light on the reason for this viewpoint as well as looking at what might convince employers to start offering PMI as a benefit in the future. Of those businesses not offering PMI 1 in 5 said they would consider doing so if the provider specialised in working with companies of their size. Small and micro sized businesses (those with 1-9 and 10-49 employees respectively) made up the majority of those calling for this change suggesting a tailored approach to SME’s could see them increase their uptake.

The research carried out also shows that better communication, greater transparency and top quality customer service would convince those not offering PMI to employees to do so. Customer service was most important to large businesses (those with over 250 employees) with 20% of those not offering PMI consider top quality customer service a factor that would convince them to offer this benefit.

A clearer explanation of the benefits to offering medical insurance was identified as a key factor suggesting more needs to done to communicate directly with businesses and educate them around how PMI works and its importance.

If you are a Private Medical Insurer looking to appeal to the business market carrying out bespoke research will give you an understanding of what matters most to this market. To contact a member of our Health and Wellbeing team use the details below:

Call: 020 7250 3035


A healthy future for healthcare research

Last week, IFF’s Health and Wellbeing team were nominated for the MRS Healthcare Research Award for work conducted as part of a dementia pilot project for the Department of Health (DH) in partnership with Loughborough University – Click here for details.

This nomination rounds off a busy year for our healthcare sector and highlights how we are breaking new ground in our approach to the kind of projects we love to work on, those that make a real difference to peoples’ lives.

Healthcare growth in difficult times

Healthcare research – with patients, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders – continues to be an area of great importance and shows no signs of waning as questions remain over government health care policies and efficiency in the NHS.

Our Health and Wellbeing sector has grown in recent years and been given a renewed focus. We have added experience to our ranks and built upon our core strengths such as our ability to access many hard to reach audiences and offer flexibility in our service.

Healthcare expertise

Mark Speed, Joint Managing Director at IFF, and Matt Barnes, Associate Director at IFF, have been busy presenting research into attitudes to the NHS complaints handling process at conferences around the UK and will be sharing their findings at next week’s ‘NHS Patient Complaints: Improving Your Response to Support Patients & Staff Conference’.

For more information on our Health and Wellbeing team visit our sector page here.

Speak to a healthcare expert: Call: 02 07250 3035 or Email:

The NHS in 2015: Thoughts from the Health and Care Innovation Expo

There were mixed feelings at this year’s Health and Care Expo, held in Manchester last week. As ever in the public sector now, austerity loomed large. There is no point in denying that money is an issue, argued several speakers – including Sir Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director of NHS England. The first requirement is to have a better understanding of what things actually cost – it is not always clear that this is the case – but this does not mean that quality should be the servant of money. There was a determination across the board to be positive in the face of austerity challenges. The theme of the conference was innovation, and a recurring theme was the assertion that tough times can be a catalyst in this respect.

How can innovation be implemented?

Innovation does not necessarily mean expensive new technology. One of the highlights was a session with Dr Devi Shetty – a renowned cardiac surgeon who has worked in numerous countries – who told the conference that we should look outside the UK for ideas. The BRIC countries in particular, have long been setting up healthcare systems on a tight budget. This was echoed in a session with members of the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), who shared a few examples of simple ideas which have had a positive impact. Again, the message was that, for an idea to have traction in the NHS today, it will need to be cost neutral in the short to medium term.

Localism vs Standardisation

The other key theme – more subtle, but running throughout – is the old debate about localism vs standardisation. The public and political discourse over this continues to be confused. Do we want services tailored to meet local needs? Yes. But is it acceptable for the quality of service you receive to vary depending on where you live? No. The prevailing view seems to be that increasing standardisation is inevitable in the current climate.

So what is the role of insight in an increasingly tough financial environment? The message from senior NHS figures was clear. As Sir Bruce Keogh said, “in the commercial sector, when times get tough you ask your customers what they want”. This was echoed by Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation Rob Webster, who told delegates that, when money is tight, it is doubly important to have evidence of impact.

IFF anticipates this to be a major theme and challenge for health researchers over the next five years and one we are going to keep abreast of over time with ongoing reviews of evidence in an austerity climate!

How does the July Budget affect the research industry?

There have been plenty of talking points around this year’s budget. Now that the dust has settled we have decided to look a bit closer to home and think about how all of this will impact the research industry.



The recent budget contained a number of measures which will potentially have a major impact on the future of school leavers in the UK over the coming years. Of these the most significant of these is the introduction of a new Apprenticeship levy for large employers.

The aim of the Apprenticeship levy (not perhaps the natural step for a Conservative party with a predilection for free market solutions) is to fund increases in apprenticeship numbers and quality (e.g. the pledge to create 3m new apprenticeships in the course of this parliament).

Although the nature of the levy is not yet clear (who will pay it and how much) from a research perspective the key questions appear to be:

1. Will the levy generate the required increase in apprentices, while also maintaining quality?

2. How will this vary across different sectors and at different apprenticeship levels?

3. What is the employer view on this?

  • Which employers will benefit from these changes?
  • What affect does the levy have on employer non-apprenticeship training activity, and hence their overall investment in training?

Having conducted extensive research on support for the training levy in the construction sector, on employer views on Apprenticeships and on employer investment in training, we look forward with interest on the government’s research programme in this area.

Student maintenance grants:

The replacement of the Student maintenance grant by loans is another stand out consideration in the education space and will undoubtedly have an impact on those considering the option of University. Currently, students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less get the full grant of just under £3,400 a year; more than half a million students in England receive the grant costing taxpayers more than £1.5bn annually. The government hopes scrapping the grant will reverse under-funding of universities, and stops the basic unfairness of taxpayers funding grants for people likely to earn above average salaries. Critics focus on social injustice and the fact that scrapping the grant will make university unaffordable and unappealing for those from the poorest backgrounds.

On this basis the overriding question for research must be what impact does the introduction of the loan have on student numbers, particularly on (planned) applications from low and middle income families?


Our recent blog challenging the stereotype of the benefit claimant discussed how the government may look to achieve its cuts of £12bn to welfare payments by 2018-19 – read our blog on here. This budget gives us a first look at how the government aims to approach these cuts. The flagship announcement regarding benefits from this year’s budget has been the new national living wage. This will see a reduction in the benefits provided to low paid workers but in turn businesses will be obliged to pay them a higher wage.

From a research perspective it will be interesting to consider what impact this will have on employment and the way in which employers recruit. It raises some interesting questions:

1. Will we see more under 25’s recruited as employers look to avoid paying the £7.20 living wage in favour of the standard £6.50 minimum wage?

2. Will we find employers recruiting individuals to work restricted hours – for instance, in retail or services, recruiting to cover narrower windows of ‘peak demand’?

3. Will it apply a ‘chilling’ effect to further recruitment, making employers consider more carefully whether to take on further staff?

A more difficult question to answer is whether the national living wage – like the national minimum wage before it – acted as a ‘default position’ that led some employers to pay less than they might otherwise have done –thus ‘flattening out’ wages paid, rather than acting as a ‘safety net’ at the bottom of the wage scale.


There have been a number of changes to taxation in this budget with adjustments being made to personal tax thresholds and a reduction to the rate of corporation tax.

Researchers will play a key role following:

1. The impact of the proposed rise in Personal Allowance

2. The Inheritance Tax threshold for individuals

3. The reduction of Corporation Tax and changes to the Annual Investment Allowance for businesses (the August round of our Business Omnibus will be assessing the reaction to the budget across businesses of all sizes and sectors to see what kind of impact these changes have had).

Insurance Premium Tax:

As part of this budget the chancellor also announced that Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) will rise from 6% to 9.5% from November of this year. It is very likely that the IPT change will not be picked up by the majority of people even though it will have a significant impact. To put it in perspective, from November over 20 million households that hold contents / buildings insurance or motor insurance will see their premiums increase (it is estimated typical car insurance will increase by between £12 and £15).

Premium increases are likely to become another barrier for insurance providers to overcome as they look to engage with an already frustrated client base. See our blog on recent insurance innovations.


The words ‘challenging ‘ and ‘impossible’ have been bandied around with the conflicting demands of £22 billion in NHS efficiency savings by 2020/21 while also working to achieve a 7 day a week service in the same period. While there is certainly no ‘silver bullet’ with finance directors talking of general efficiency savings (without discussing specifics), procurement savings and ‘supporting staff to work in different ways’ (isn’t this falling under the efficiency savings heading?), all external suppliers are going to have to work within this austere context.

Only time will tell how deep and far these cuts will go, however what is clear is that ‘efficiency’ is going to be a key word for all suppliers to the NHS and other public sector health organisations, especially in terms of the service sector suppliers such as research.

In conclusion…

All research suppliers are going to have to think smarter in their research solutions and demonstrate this during the procurement process over the coming months. There are a lot of conflicting demands on limited budgets and research suppliers will need to actively demonstrate that the results of a project will enable efficiency savings as well as insight.

IFF Conference Review: Innovation and insurance

The UK Financial Services Experience Awards

Wednesday 8 July saw the inaugural UK Financial Services Experience Awards ceremony take place in London. Financial Service providers from across the industry battled it out to show the judges how they were seeking to improve experience for their customers.

It was a fantastically hosted event and judging at these awards really showed me how, as a sector often treated with suspicion (and quite rightly in some instances) the Financial Service industry is really looking to put customers’ experience back at the heart of what they do.

This is not an easy task, particularly for insurance providers where trust is low and engagement with providers is often seen to be a ‘necessary evil’.  Having had the opportunity to judge five papers in the insurance category – it was clear to see how technological innovation is really changing the way in which insurance is sold and delivered to consumers. Advances in technology now mean customers can expect to see pop up web-chat when at the point of purchasing online and some providers are even beginning to offer customers the option of streaming video of damage directly to their claims adjusters.

What I found most interesting is that the eventual winner of the category – Direct Line Group in partnership with True & Good – demonstrated that real innovation does not always have to be technological in nature. They deservedly won the insurance award for their fresh approach using simpler language which was more in keeping with their brand. In turn, this improved customer experience and is also likely to lead to better outcomes for customers.

All forms of innovation designed to improve customer experience within the insurance industry (and more widely within the Financial Services sector) should be welcomed. Having witnessed the rate of change first hand, over the next few years I would expect that the ‘benchmark’ of what counts as a good customer experience from an insurance provider to be raised much higher.

For more information on how IFF help clients in the Financial Services space CLICK HERE