In 2021/22, Sheffield Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust undertook two key projects in partnership with trade unions. The first project aimed to overcome the challenges associated with implementing Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment (VCOD), and the second was a project to prevent and reduce violence from service users to deliver a safer workplace for staff.
Following the announcement that the government intended to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers by April 2022, the trust established a working group that included HR, information governance, informatics and clinical operations colleagues equality network chairs; the trust’s trade union chair; and trade union representatives. The group aimed to minimise the impact of VCOD on colleagues, and ensure colleagues were treated with respect and compassion.
The trust's second project group was established following the introduction of the Prevention and Reduction of Violence Standard in early 2021. HR led the development of a diverse group, which included equality network chairs, security and health and safety leads and operational managers, heads of clinical service and clinical and non-clinical trade union representatives.
The VCOD working group took the following actions.
- Engaged with local authority colleagues in Sheffield to learn from the impact of mandatory vaccination on care home workers.
- Verified the uptake of the vaccine in the trust and looked at trends in data.
- Developed a communications plan in partnership, which included dedicated letter templates and guidance notes for managers.
- Wrote to all unvaccinated colleagues to encourage vaccine uptake and engagement.
- Clearly communicated the employment risks of remaining unvaccinated.
- Trade union representatives developed and led drop-in sessions for unvaccinated colleagues and managers.
The prevention and reduction of violence group took the following actions.
- Performed gap analysis and gathered evidence against the prevention and reduction of violence standard.
- Reviewed the trust’s managing aggression policy.
- Developed a campaign with supporting guidance to explain why incident reporting is important, and to outline what happens when incidents are reported.
- Engaged with the trust’s network groups to capture lived experience as part of the trust’s report for support campaign.
- Delivered a Schwartz round (a structured forum for healthcare staff to discuss emotional and social aspects of work) on the impact of violence.
- Included hate crime in the trust’s monthly security report.
The role of partnership working
Trade union representatives were involved with the VCOD project from its outset. Formal weekly meetings ensured they had an equal voice during the project’s development stages. Trade union representatives took the time to speak with individuals impacted by VCOD and their managers, recognising the difficulty of the task ahead and the potential impact on relationships within the trust. The trust’s equality network chairs reached out to ethnic minority colleagues and colleagues with disabilities to encourage vaccine uptake and to answer any questions.
As above, trade union representatives were given an equal voice in the trust’s prevention and reduction of violence project from its outset, helping shape project plans and actions. They influenced language used in messaging and encouraged teams to have representation. They were supportive of members of staff in challenging circumstances, such as out-patient department and emergency department receptionists, mental health clinical colleagues, health visitors and other community workers and doctors in training. Collaborating with other local NHS trusts and trade unions, security and health and safety colleagues proved valuable when exploring ideas.
Results and benefits
When VCOD legislation was withdrawn, the trust was still at the informal encouraging uptake of the vaccine stage of the project. The number of unvaccinated staff in the trust reduced from 200 to 150 with two of the 150 unvaccinated colleagues resigning. VCOD did have a detrimental impact on some colleagues, but colleagues also thanked the trust for its effective engagement of the issue.
The successes of the trust’s prevention and reduction of violence project were demonstrated in the 2021 staff survey, where 82.4 per cent of staff responding said they or a colleague had reported the last time they had experienced physical violence at work. This is higher than the average for benchmarked trusts (66.3 per cent).
Both project groups continue to grow and work collaboratively. They have received positive feedback, with trade union representatives feeling their contributions were valued. This new model of working in partnership was built into the trust’s newly developed Partnership Agreement, which launched in January 2022 as part of the trust’s support of hearttradeunion week. The trust’s trade union representatives are now advocates for working with HR colleagues throughout the trust.
The trust learned that:
- early involvement of trade union representatives in project groups alongside managers, can help to develop strong, positive relationships
- trade union representatives bring a helpful and problem-solving perspective to projects and use their knowledge of member feedback to ensure clarity in communications.
To sustain the project going forward, the trust will:
- look towards how micro-aggressions can best be reported as part of the prevention and reduction of violence project
- ensure there is regular dialogue and early involvement of trade union representatives in our wider health, safety and wellbeing agenda.
For more information, contact Jane Clawson, Sheffield Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust, Deputy Director of People and Organisational Development.