The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been one of the biggest challenges the NHS has ever had to face, and the partnership between the Armed Forces and the NHS has been highlighted on many occasions.
The partnership has played a pivotal role in the response to the pandemic.
Armed Forces colleagues have offered logistical support, such as setting up the Nightingale hospitals and delivering testing services, to clinical support around the vaccination programme. Members of the Armed Forces community have often been asked to perform above and beyond their day-to-day roles and responsibilities.
NHS Employers’ Step into Health team has been working with NHS organisations to gain insight into how they have used the unique skills and experiences of their Armed Forces community workforce during the pandemic.
NHS organisations have shared with the team how positive their experience has been and how valuable the support from military colleagues has been.
A spokesperson for one NHS trust said: “We have increased our resilience by allowing our Military Co-responders to support us more, we have also received support from local regiments.”
Another NHS trust spokesperson said: “The quick response, logistics and planning skills have been invaluable. Although numbers of Armed Forces Community colleagues remain low, the experience and knowledge of individuals has been paramount.”
Many NHS staff have been redeployed to work on COVID-19-related roles.
Gavin Jones, a veteran who now works as Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance at King's Facilities Management (owned by Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust), shared his experiences about being asked to take on a different role and work in supply chain management and logistics, ensuring PPE was distributed accordingly.
Gavin attributes his Armed Forces background to being able to carry out the task to a high standard and being able to perform well under immense pressure. He served for 24 years in the Royal Logistic Corps, taking part in deployments to the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan. His last role was as a Brigade Ordnance Warrant Officer. Gavin said:
“I feel that my experiences of having served a career in the British Army made it straightforward to quickly switch to a different role that supported the defence against COVID-19.
"The two key strengths I utilised were regular and comprehensive two-way communications, with a foundation based on great stakeholder relationships and robust, but simple, planning.”
Before joining the NHS, Gavin undertook a work placement at an NHS organisation, as part of the Step into Health programme.
The programme aims to highlight the many transferable skills Armed Forces personnel can bring to roles and also encourage NHS organisations to publicly commit to supporting the recruitment of members of the Armed Forces Community into the NHS.
To connect to NHS organisations pledged to the programme and discuss opportunities available, or to receive guidance on applications, sign up to the Step into Health candidate system.