City Hospitals Sunderland is the first NHS Trust in the north east to receive a Gold Award from the Ministry of Defence, the highest badge of honour for organisations which have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and demonstrate outstanding support for those who serve and have served.
The Trust, which signed a community covenant with the MoD in April, is one of only 33 organisations nationally to be awarded the coveted title this year. It is the only north east trust to be awarded Gold and one of two organisations seen to be the best Armed Forces friendly employer in 2017.
City Hospitals Sunderland has been a long supporter of the Armed Forces and currently has 15 reservists working across the hospital. Many have been deployed on operations to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and it is envisages that some may be involved in the humanitarian support of the United Nations in Sudan this year.
The Trust has a dedicated policy to support the work of its Reserves, which includes paid leave to allow them to attend training. Staff are also encouraged to support military led events, such as Exercise Military Challenge so they can appreciate the work undertaken by the Reserves and gain from their team building ethos.
The Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold Awards recognise employers who actively support the Armed Forces community in their workplace and also encourage others to follow their lead. The award scheme, which attracts entries from companies in every part of the country and in the private and public sectors, has seen a rapid increase in participation since it launched in 2014.
The 2017 Employer Recognition Scheme Gold award winners are:
Airbus, Balfour Beatty, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Combat Pest Control, DHL, DXC Technology, ER Systems Global, FDM, Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, General Dynamics UK, Hampshire Hospital, Hull City Council, NHS Golden Jubilee Foundation, Inverclyde Council, Kuehne & Nagel, Laing O’Rourke, Liverpool City Council, Mabway Ltd, ManpowerGroup UK, Metropolitan Police Service, Morson Group, Network Rail, North West Ambulance Service, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, Shropshire Council, Skanska UK Plc, Sodexo UK & Ireland, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Transport for London, West Midlands Fire Service, Wiltshire Council, Wolferstans Solicitors, X-Forces.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “These companies have shown the gold standard of commitment to supporting members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families. They have taken meaningful steps to ensure the Defence community are not disadvantaged by the sacrifice they make in helping keep this country safe. The actions of these employers make it crystal clear that regardless of size, location, or sector, employing people with military skills is good for business.”
Ken Bremner, Chief Executive of City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are honoured to have been recognised by the Ministry of Defence for the work we do to support the Armed Forces. It is important for us to celebrate the contribution made particularly by our staff who also serve as reservists and we very much value the extra skills and experience 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.”
Ben Banerjee, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust and Commanding Officer of 201 Field Hospital, Newcastle, 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.
Mr Banerjee 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 Bennett, Patient Flow Manager and Night Matron and Major in the Army Reserves, added: “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.”