BartsShielders – Together building peer virtual support - Barts Health NHS Trust

BartsShielders – Together building peer virtual support - Barts Health NHS Trust featured image

Social networks are a protective factor against mental distress. In a period of intense national uncertainty and distress for NHS staff, the Covid19 lock-down, prevented people physically spent with their networks.

Overnight, Barts support staff began working from home. Clinical staff remaining on site became insular, focusing on the challenges of nursing under extreme infection control.

Clinically vulnerable people were advised to shield i.e. confine at home and adopt infection control measures within their home. Over 600 Barts staff were shielders. Especially for clinical staff, disconnected totally, there was a real risk of long-term isolation and mental health consequences.

In response, we created a virtual meeting space, using Liberating Structures (LS) as a tool as they are designed to include everyone in participation and decision making. We believe that quality virtual facilitation will provide an oasis and for personal, professional, and social growth during and after the COVID 19 crisis to create a more integrated, connected Barts.

Our aim was:

  •  Quickly catalyse community, and understand the needs
  • Provide psychologically safe space where they feel heard, seen, respected, and valued
  • Cultivate relationships and opportunities for consistent social support to counteract mental distress
  • Grow new support networks that allow for formal programme related support and informal ad hoc support as well
  • Grow the capabilities and know-how of Barts Health to evolve for an NHS with more virtual engagement
  • Meaningfully harness talents and abilities of staff who are shielding. LS can insightfully connect them so they think about contribution together and co-create new opportunities previously unforeseen.

What did we do?

  • Developed 3 regular virtual spaces (Shield Connect; Next Step; Choir practice), having connect with over 230 staff (from a possible 648) with over 750 contacts, and a closed Facebook Group
  • 18 Shield connect meeting with 250 attendances
  • 8 Next Steps sessions with 400 attendances
  • Delivered 18 online facilitation with other teams
  • Interviewed leaders as part of our Covid learning process
  • Developed a collaborative space between HR and Trade Unions to pre-emptively identify and resolve problems. In 3 sessions of managers training [so far] 127 managers have attended.
  • A webinar with our Chief Executive, and blogs with shielding staff
  • Introduced the #ShieldUS campaign to Barts Health
  • Involved a range of support services and leaders, to support shielding staff. Next Steps involves a ‘celebrity interview’ and we have had a range of Associate Directors present on (1) Risk Assessment (2) annual leave (2) Infection Control (3) Fear and Anxiety (4) EWS clinical decision tool (5) Returning to Site (6) Remote Working (7) Accessing testing
  • HR, Trade Unions, Psychology, Employee Well-being, and the disabled staff Network, BartsAbility, attend each session

Come and experience one of our on-line sessions and find out how a group of shielding staff, built a community of support

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