NHS chief praises thousands of vaccination staff staying in the health service

Gym managers, dance teachers and a chef are among thousands of people who signed up to be volunteer vaccinators during the pandemic and have chosen to start a new career in the NHS.

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, has today welcomed news that well over 11,000 (11,483) people who joined the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme have decided to stay on in the health service in other roles, in a huge boost to the workforce.

People up and down the country came forward to support the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, and with training and skills built up over the pandemic have now gone on to jobs supporting medical teams, boosting patient experience and even studying for clinical roles themselves.

The expanded workforce will help the NHS tackle the elective backlog as services bounce back across the country and help patients get the best care possible as quickly as possible.

Karen aged 57, a former dance teacher who was furloughed during the pandemic, now supports new mums and babies as a ward clerk in Bedford Hospital. Karen said after signing up to work in the vaccine programme she ‘enjoyed being part of something that made a real difference’.

Tamryn, 45, from Cambridgeshire spent more than a decade jetting across the world as cabin crew but after being furloughed felt it was time to start a new career.

Alongside signing up to support the vaccination programme, she decided to apply for a degree in therapeutic radiology and said that she valued that ‘by working for the NHS you can make a real difference to people’s lives every day’.

The NHS has put a huge focus on workforce retention ensuring that people who came forward to help with the largest vaccination programme in health service history are encouraged and supported to stay on in new roles.

Kazeem, who was previously a gym manager in London and is now an assistant service manager at one of England’s leading hospitals, Guy’s and St Thomas, says he loved meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds working in the health service alongside ‘being part of a team that was making history.’

Workforce retention teams have been on hand to show people who may not have had previous health or clinical experience the range of roles available, with vaccination staff going on to work across a whole host of areas – including on maternity wards or even starting to study for frontline roles.

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Not only did these people help deliver the most successful NHS vaccination programme in history, protecting the public against the virus at speed, they are now continuing to help us care for others in various roles across the country.

“From new starters to people who had retired, thousands took up the call to get jabs in arms in their local communities and it is fantastic that more than 11,000 people have decided to stay with us in another capacity, taking on one of the many rewarding roles across the health service.

“With more than 350 different roles within the NHS – there are roles for everyone so please search NHS careers today, if you are interested in joining us too”.

Since December 2020 the NHS has recruited over 71,000 people for the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme who have helped to deliver more than 120 million doses to all age groups, including more than 32 million boosters and over 1.4 million spring boosters.

Alongside paid roles the NHS vaccination programme has also benefited from the support of thousands of volunteers, with more than two and a half million volunteer hours registered since the world-first jab was given to Margaret Keenan in Coventry in December 2020.

The biggest and most successful vaccination programme in health history has delivered 120 million vaccinations, including 32 million boosters with more than four in five eligible adults having a top up in protection.

The NHS COVID vaccination programme is rolling out spring jabs to the most vulnerable eligible groups, in line with JCVI guidance, as part of its newest phase.

A recent report from the National Audit Office concluded that the NHS Vaccination Programme met “stretching and unprecedented targets” as it helped save lives and reduce hospital admissions – all while making effective use of public money.

Karen Dear, who worked for the vaccine programme after being furloughed from her job as a dance teacher and is now a ward clerk at Bedford Hospital’s maternity unit, said: “When I was furloughed from my job teaching at a dance school, I was eager to do something to help so joined the NHS vaccination programme last January and enjoyed being part of something that made a real difference.

“After a year, I decided I wanted to pursue a long-term career in the NHS so completed my Care Certificate and spoke with the local retention team who opened my eyes to the various roles and opportunities across the health service – now I’m in a new job I love, as a full-time ward clerk at our local maternity unit”.

Kazeem Reaves Odunsi, who worked as a gym manager before becoming a vaccinator and is now an assistant service manager at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I have always loved helping people so the vaccinator role seemed like a good fit and although I don’t have any clinical experience, I received training and was able to use the leadership skills and good customer service that I had learned from my previous jobs”.

“By giving someone the vaccine I felt I was helping to improve their quality of life and bring an end to the pandemic. Being part of a team that was making history and getting to meet people from a range of backgrounds and cultures, I was really inspired to stay on and start a new career in the NHS”.

Tamryn Saby, who supported the vaccine programme in Cambridge after being furloughed and is now studying to become a therapeutic radiographer, said: “I had spent 11 years jetting across the world with an airline but after being furloughed, I took some time to reassess my career and applied for a degree in therapeutic radiography alongside working on the vaccine programme.

“I hoped that by getting involved it would help us all return to ‘normal’ sooner but being part of the vaccine roll-out also helped build my confidence for a career in healthcare, and showed that by working for the NHS you can make a real difference to people’s lives every day”.

Chloe Radley, who worked as a make-up artist before joining the vaccine programme and is now a patient pathway coordinator at Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “During the first months of the pandemic, I lost the vast majority of my customers and was unable to resume my work so I decided to take the plunge and support our local vaccination programme in an admin role.

“I immediately fell in love with the job and the team, and when my manager encouraged me to apply for another role in the health service I jumped at the chance – I’m now a patient pathway coordinator and find the work so rewarding”.

Inga Zamolynska, who joined the vaccine programme after her mum moved over from Ukraine and is now a patient experience coordinator at Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I joined the vaccination hub as soon as it opened in December 2020, as my Mum had recently come over from Ukraine and was able to care for my children.

“I loved it so much I continued at the trust and am now a patient experience coordinator – it’s a dream come true”.

Steve Cox, who joined the vaccine programme after recovering from a stem cell transplant and is now working for Devon CCG in a new role, said: “I was looking to return to full time work after recovering from a stem cell transplant for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and saw a temporary administrator role with the local vaccine programme on Facebook.

“I later moved to a role managing vaccine supply which helped confirm that I wanted to stay on working with the NHS, and now I have a new role outside the vaccine programme with Devon CCG. I’ve felt so supported by the NHS team and have made great friends here”.

Stephen May, who signed up to support the vaccination programme after being made redundant and is now a patient access coordinator at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I had worked for British Airways for 22 years but everything changed when the pandemic hit. I lost my job because of COVID-19 but I managed to turn it into something positive by going to the frontline to become a vaccinator.

“Being a vaccinator was the perfect job for someone who has worked in cabin crew – communicating clearly, reassuring people, acting calmly and being able to explain things to different people are things I did as a vaccinator and also did on an aircraft, and now I’ve been able to bring those skills into my new role with the NHS”.