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Bring Back Staff Reservist Success in Norfolk and Waveney

A national pilot launched in Norfolk calling for former health workers to return to the NHS has been hailed such a success that there are moves to make the project permanent.

The Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership launched the pilot as part of a national campaign delivered locally with all regions inviting back hundreds of supporters who expressed an interest in helping the NHS during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of people answered the call to come back and help with the huge task of caring for the large numbers of the public admitted to hospital and the subsequent vaccination programme. What was expected to be a local response turned into what became the biggest one-off recruitment programme in the history of the NHS.

Across the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Partnership (ICS) there was a desire to make this programme sustainable beyond COVID-19 and so plans were put in place to develop a cohort of reservists, who would work in a more planned and strategic way than Bank or Agency staff.

Since the recruitment began, Mark Rodgerson, Programme Manager and his team have recruited and trained 90 Reservists, with 30 more in the pipeline and ambitious plans for 500 in the team by 2023. Many of the Reservists have come out of retirement and whilst skilled and suited for the available work want planned and limited hours. Currently, they work up to 20 days a year; mandatory training has been pared down to what is safe and effective and as we can see the numbers are growing.

Mark said: “This programme has been a labour of love and has been uniquely successful in the Norfolk and Waveney ICS. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals host us contractually, but what we have been able to do is break down the barriers between different organisations and work as one team across the whole patch.

“We provide professional and pastoral support and engagement, which has led to a real sense of community within the Reservists. We have monthly social zoom calls, a monthly newsletter and debrief support if required. Later in the summer we are planning a proper afternoon tea celebration for everything that has happened over the last 18 months.

“Our Reservists are amazing; they have different skillsets and competencies but what they have in common is an overwhelming desire to contribute to the wellbeing and comfort of our local community.

“Looking to the future, we will be deploying our team for annual flu vaccination programmes, potentially supporting staff on the wards with physical care for patients and any number of other initiatives. The initiative is financially sustainable, because it is less costly than agency staff, but the Reservists get to know the teams and patients they work with, so there is more continuity of care. From a glossy hospital to a draughty church hall - the Reserve's work has shown the real variety of teams working together."

Anna Morgan MBE and nurse by background is Director of Workforce for the Norfolk and Waveney Health & Care Partnership: “The programme has been so successful that it recently hosted Minister of State (Minister for Care) Helen Whately. The experiences discussed were very positive, and the Minister saw fantastic stories from returners and MSWs of the real sense of pride that they hold in being part of the NHS.

“Mark and his team, including Lisa Pickersgill, Relationship Manager for the Reservists, have done a fantastic job to bring this all together. Workforce continues to be an issue for all parts of the NHS, so we hope that this model will provide a blueprint for how we can move forward in a sustainable and effective way. It’s been a pleasure to be involved.”

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