The Only National Awards For Non-Medical / Non-Clinical NHS Staff & Volunteers

Corporate Services 2021 Winners HR Operations Team

7th December 2021

We caught up recently with Gemma Grimes (@gemma_nhshr), Head of Employee Relations at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, whose team won for Corporate Services at the 2021 Unsung Hero Awards. Gemma kindly let us interview her on behalf of the team, so we could dig deeper into why the team were shortlisted, and ultimately won at the Awards. Read on to find out exactly why… 

Hi Gemma, can you explain how your teams day-to-day working life changed significantly early in the Pandemic? Specifically, what it meant that the team lead on a Covid-19 Staff Testing Pathway?

My team provides a frontline HR Advisory Service (guidance on Policies, Terms and Conditions on Hospital roles, etc), however in February of 2020 we started to hear about the ‘Wuhan Virus’, as we were calling it at the time. It was towards the end of March that we introduced our first Testing Pathway at the hospital. We identified staff off with Covid symptoms and prioritised testing clinical staff to ensure they got back into work faster. Once widespread testing was available, we had to ensure that every member of staff who had Covid-19 symptoms received their results back as quickly as possible. We ran an internal ‘Test and Trace’ pathway, as well as our HR Advisory line, which became a Covid hotline: we received around 160 phone calls a day on Covid-related matters and what the impact on staff would be. Practically we delivered every day on what was required, but it was a massive step outside of what we were typically asked to do as a HR Team. 

It was mentioned in your nomination text that you worked closely with the IT Department. Alongside IT, how many areas of the hospital did HR work with to implement and roll-out your pathway? 

We were in daily contact with our Occupational Health Service, Pathology Team, who ran the Covid tests, and the Pre-assessment Team, who did the swabbing. The IT service would enable the results to come back to the individual being tested quickly. We certainly haven’t gone back to how we worked prior to Covid, as we are still running the service. Working with IT Services has given us food for thought as to how we could digitalise other people pathways in the future.

What would you say was the ‘stand out’ achievement/s of the HR Operations Team during the Pandemic?

I think the speed with which we got the Testing Pathway up and running was our most impressive achievement. As soon as the Trust were able to test staff we had a drive-through service set up the next day, ready to test staff who were already on our list due to reporting Covid-19 symptoms. It’s difficult to say ‘stand out’ achievement as everyday there were asks that we delivered, but overall, our speed at which we could ensure staff members were tested lead to less pressure being placed on clinical staff overall.

Have your roles and personal lives been permanently altered post the Pandemic? 

It’s definitely changed. The HR department phone line is still used as a Covid Advice Hotline, we are still working with the staff testing pathway and we have had to get used to not working as a team in person, as we are rota-based as to when we work from home whilst we continue to socially distance. Personally, it has just been a very strange time, seeing staff daily, to now working more from home.

Do you feel that the NHS widely promotes public awareness and recognition of those working in the NHS in a non-medical role? 

I am not sure that people would have recognised that non-clinical roles were massively affected by Covid. I am not sure if people understood as they were clapping on their doorstep that we were affected in many ways in a non-clinical role as clearly those staff in a clinical role were.
In terms of promoting non-clinical roles within the NHS, profiling is always a positive at showcasing the wide range of roles available to future employees. The NHS has so many career pathways; not just Doctors and Nurses. We get a good range of opportunities through the NHS to promote non-clinical roles at events such as career fairs.

How did it feel to win for Corporate Services at the 2021 Unsung Hero Awards on November 12th 2021?

It was incredible, we didn’t expect it at all. We turned up for a nice night and we were ready to clap another winner! It was incredible and not what we expected, we were completely over the moon to have won. To be nominated was fantastic and then shortlisted was amazing. I don’t have the words to say how it felt to win…it was just brilliant.

Watch Gemma’s winners interview HERE and the Official 2021 Event Video HERE

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