City Hospitals Sunderland cements its commitment to the armed forces by signing a special covenant with the Ministry of Defence

City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has signed a special covenant that formally outlines how we pledge to support the armed forces and their families within the hospital and the local community.

Chief Executive, Ken Bremner was joined by Lieutenant General Robin Brims CBE, who is Chairman of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association North East and was undertaking his first official engagement as High Sheriff for the County of Tyne and Wear.

The Trust has already been recognised as being an armed forces friendly organisation and was awarded the silver employer recognition award in November 2016 for the work we have already done to champion staff members who are serving personnel or reservists and the employment opportunities we provide for veterans young and old. The Trust also supports various events throughout the year, such as Armed Forces Day and Medical Challenge and have a dedicated intranet page and Armed Forces Champion, Kath Griffin, who is also our Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development.

Specific policies are also in place to support employee reservists and military families. They include special leave for staff to attend training and any other required duties; flexibility in granting leave for service spouses and partners before, during or after deployment; providing priority care for veterans where is relates to their service and supporting employment opportunities for veterans of all ages, along with spouses and partners of military personnel.

Also present on behalf of the Trust were Mr Ben Banerjee, Consultant Vascular Surgeon and Kelly Bennett, Patient Flow Manager and Night Matron. Ben and Kelly have both served in the reserve forces for a number of years, along with 13 other colleagues in the Trust, and are huge advocates of the many benefits that organisations can gain from supporting and employing military personnel and veterans.

Mr Banerjee followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Army Reserves, where he has remained for the last 27 years. Now Commanding Officer of 201 Field Hospital, Newcastle, he has been deployed four times whilst working for the Trust and credits the support of colleagues as instrumental in allowing him to take on these extra duties.

Ben said: “Having an employer who values the work we do as reservists is enormously important. My last three deployments have been to Afghanistan and the support I have received from the Trust has been on many levels. I have been granted leave, colleagues have stepped in to provide cover and several members of the Trust have sent me letters, parcels and cakes whilst deployed. There is no better training ground than in a war zone. You have limited supplies and have to be calm and make decisions quickly. I use this experience in my day to day role and share my experiences with colleagues.”

Kelly, who is currently a Major in the Army Reserves, used the experience she gained in the forces to advance her career at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Kelly said: “When I joined the Army Reserves 11 years ago, the Trust supported me with my training and then further supported me when I went to Sandhurst Military Academy and then on to Camp Bastion. I have gained so much from being a reserve. I’m now a ski instructor, a mountain bike leader and have trekked in Morocco and Sierra Nevada.

“Joining the Army Reserves has enriched my life in so many ways. My nursing skills have advanced, I have gained confidence in my leadership abilities and I bring the army ethos of team work to my job. I am grateful to be part of an organisation that actively supports reserves and has the highest number of reservists proportionate to employees.”

Ken Bremner, Chief Executive of City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have 15 Trust employees who are reserves within the armed forces, including the British Army and Royal Navy and there are up to 8,000 others employed within the NHS. The UK heavily relies on the contribution made by our reservists and the armed forces and we very much recognise the values that they bring to the Trust. We also employ a number of veterans and are looking at initiatives that will provide work placement opportunities and guaranteed interviews where they have skills that match a role. We welcome the support of the Ministry of Defence and hope to continue to foster relationships to encourage more organisations to follow this same ethos.”

Gary McLafferty, the MoD’s Employer Engagement Director commented: “The nations Armed Services depend heavily on the reserves for all activities including missions within the UK and overseas. Specialist areas such as healthcare require close partnership with civilian employers in order to achieve the outstanding standards demonstrated over the past 15 years. It is very much a two way street in terms of learning, training and delivering. The Armed Forces Covenant binds this relationship formally and publically and recognises the value to society of former and current servicing personnel.”