COVID-19 vaccines first became available at the end of 2020 and have been central to the Government’s pandemic response. Even prior to approval of these new medicines, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) was charged with operational delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations in England – including managing the supply, storage and distribution required to enable hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies to administer vaccines safely and effectively.
Since August 2020, NHS Arden & GEM has worked with four of the seven NHSE&I regions to provide flexible resourcing solutions that have played a vital role in supporting management of the largest vaccination programme ever delivered by the NHS. We developed a dedicated infrastructure that has effectively sourced and placed over 100 skilled professionals, the majority on Agenda for Change terms – getting the right people, in the right place, at the right time and delivering best value for the NHS.
As the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved for use and the first cohorts of patients were identified, administering vaccines as quickly as possible was crucial to preventing further deaths and serious illness from coronavirus.
NHSE&I were responsible for the operational delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations in England. This involved a complex operation to manage supply, storage and distribution of vaccines that would enable hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies to administer to patients safely and effectively. To successfully manage this complex and time sensitive operation, NHSE&I regions required significant additional resources with a broad range of skills and experience and with immediate start dates.
Our challenge was to support four of the seven NHSE&I regions to source and place the candidates required to fulfil their mobilisation and operational teams.
The individual recruitment challenges experienced by regions were diverse. The specialist skillsets needed included programme/project management, logistics, procurement, analytics and finance expertise, with roles ranging from director level through to project support officers.
As an established supplier of flexible resourcing solutions specifically designed for the NHS, we were able to quickly adapt our existing approaches to find and mobilise the required high-quality resources and multidisciplinary teams. To deliver the volume of staff required, we utilised four main initiatives:
- Internal expressions of interest from Arden & GEM’s 1000+ strong workforce
- Utilising our networks to engage and recruit NHS veterans with specialist training
- Leveraging our links with academia to attract high calibre graduates
- Recruitment marketing campaigns to deliver mainstream applications.
We were able to use our existing temporary employment ‘Bank’ processes to facilitate the onboarding of candidates and fast track to assignment. Our established HR and IT processes enabled new joiners to be up and running within a week of confirmation of their appointment – with all necessary equipment and access to systems in place.
Since August 2020, over 100 key personnel have been provided to support four NHSE&I regions deliver work associated with the vaccination programme.
Our service has delivered a flexible resourcing solution that offers rapid access to the capacity and capability required to meet the evolving needs of our clients. This resource has played an important role in creating blended teams, working alongside seconded resources from NHSE&I to deliver COVID-19 vaccination targets and objectives.
Significant efficiencies have been delivered to NHSE&I as the vast majority of resources provided have been supplied within the parameters of Agenda for Change. This has delivered best value for the NHS and, where possible, has avoided higher costs associated with agency staff and consultants.
As of April 2022, most of the flexible staff members recruited remain on active assignment. We continue to work with NHSE&I regional leads to reshape the teams and resources required as the vaccination programme transitions into business as usual.