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Welsh Communications Agency Acquires Specialist Public Affairs Consultancy


Welsh-headquartered communication agency, Freshwater, has acquired a specialist consultancy to strengthen its healthcare and public affairs offering to clients across the UK.  It’s the first step in the firm’s growth strategy following a management buy-out in February.

London-based Red Squirrel Communications was founded in 2008 by Nick Samuels, a healthcare, public affairs and crisis communications consultant, who has held high-profile positions in healthcare leadership, communications and public affairs for more than 25 years.

As part of his work at Red Squirrel Communications, Mr Samuels has undertaken a number of interim executive leadership roles, providing strategic counsel on complex communications issues for NHS Blood and Transplant, the then NHS regulator Monitor, NHS Haringey and NHS Westminster.

Mr Samuels has led communications teams for a number of NHS trusts that have undertaken major reconfiguration projects, including the creation of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust from the largest Trust merger in NHS history between Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, St Mary’s Hospital NHS Trust and Imperial College London’s faculty of Medicine.

More recently, as director of communications for NHS Providers, he led its rebrand and drove its higher profile representing NHS Trusts nationally, and as executive director of strategy, communications and policy for the Royal College of Physicians, he provided advice and operational delivery for the president and senior offices, council and the executive leadership team.

Mr Samuels has also worked in parliament for a number of MPs and is a Visiting Fellow of Buckinghamshire New University, Centre for Health Communication Research and Excellence.

Mr Samuels said:

“Freshwater is a dynamic consultancy with an enviable reputation in healthcare circles, and I’m extremely excited to be joining the team as its director of healthcare. I’ve worked collaboratively with Freshwater over the years, in the role of client, and I’ve always been impressed by their pedigree and strength-and-depth of talent.

“Great healthcare communications makes a significant contribution to the quality of patient care and staff satisfaction and welfare.  Freshwater’s expertise in public engagement and involvement supports patients and communities in shaping their care and services.

“I look forward to working with our clients in delivering healthcare communications that make a real difference for patients and staff.”

Freshwater has a strong footprint in healthcare, with three decades of experience in designing and delivering NHS, healthcare and public sector communications, engagement and strategy programmes. This includes a combination of direct in-house experience, long-term secondments, boots-on-the-ground support during times of transformative change, and working with NHS organisations across the country as their go-to integrated agency.

In February, Freshwater completed a successful £2.6m management buyout of institutional and private shareholders in order to implement a growth strategy. This will include a number of acquisitions to enhance both its sectoral strengths and its capabilities in areas such as digital, insight and evaluation.

John Underwood, executive director of Freshwater, said:

“The acquisition of Red Squirrel Communications is an exciting first step in Freshwater’s growth trajectory, following the management buy-out earlier this year.

“Healthcare is an important sector for Freshwater, whose income represents 25% of our revenue. Meanwhile, our public affairs offering is growing, especially in the rail and infrastructure sectors. Having such an experienced and highly-skilled consultant as Nick join our ranks is a huge boost to our already formidable team.”

Freshwater is an independent communications consultancy, with more than 50 staff based in Cardiff and London. It provides clients with a range of services on a multi-channel basis spanning strategic consultancy, training, content creation, engagement and event management. It also has a conference business, trading as Waterfront, which organises specialist events aimed at the transport, energy, planning and infrastructure sectors.