cvoid-19, NHSBT, plasma programme, clinical staff

Supporting NHSBT in the fight against COVID-19

By Robin King

​As part of a national research response to COVID-19, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) launched its Convalescent Plasma Programme in April 2020. NHSBT had two very big challenges though. To quickly get the project off the ground, it needed to recruit 50 nurses within just over 2 weeks.

In the coming weeks and months, as NHSBT expanded its programme across the UK, it also needed a consistent flow of highly-experienced, qualified CYP nurses.

NHSBT was unable to recruit the volume of clinical staff required alone. To make the programme a success, it needed a trusted recruitment partner with a strong reputation for quickly mobilising high quality, fully-trained, compliant clinical staff.

When NHSBT called on Crown Commercial Services for recommended on-framework agencies, Sanctuary was put forward as being able to quickly supply the clinical staff required. Following a swift, yet thorough tender process, Sanctuary was chosen as Core Supplier.

Sanctuary’s approach

To start the Programme, multiple teams of Convalescent Plasma (CVP) nurses had to be quickly mobilised across the UK. However, the programme was a completely new service. There was no blueprint on how to recruit CVP nurses or an indication of how interested candidates would be in the project. Therefore, we had to quickly restructure and move some of our most experienced healthcare consultants into a dedicated CVP nursing recruitment team.

A carefully managed, rapid, yet staged approach was agreed with NHSBT.

Leading the Sanctuary team is Ed Stevens, Head of General Nursing, who has daily calls with NHSBT. This is to ensure Sanctuary is always one step ahead in meeting the programme’s recruitment needs.

Commenting on the challenge and Sanctuary’s strategic approach, Ed said:

“Each time a new site is set up, we have specific targets we must meet, recruiting in stages. Working collaboratively with NHSBT is important. Our daily briefings keep NHSBT updated on interested candidates, candidate readiness, and the volume of active workers. This ensures we can always keep up with demand. After all, Covid-19 is still very much an evolving national picture. Our recruitment plans must have enough flex within them to change a short notice.”

The additional challenge for NHSBT, of course, is that every nurse must complete 4/5 weeks training, which Sanctuary manages and supports its nurses to complete.

The results

At the time of writing (January 2021), Sanctuary had placed over 175 CVP nurses with NHSBT. This is enabling NHSBT to dramatically ramp up their supply of blood plasma to hospitals around the country, to treat patients suffering from COVID-19.

Commenting on Sanctuary Personnel’s role in the project, Dr Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer, NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“It is an ambitious project and we’re grateful to Sanctuary for providing such highly skilled nurses to support the initiative. We are holding a lot of new donation sessions, and we know some donors will have been through a very difficult time. So, having extra highly trained professionals to support this programme is crucial.”

Following the team’s successful recruitment efforts, NHSBT have invited Sanctuary to recruit Band 7 Managers to run the new services. Without these nurses, the sites would not be able to open.

As a trusted provider, Sanctuary is also now recruiting for other whole blood (normal operations) sites to assist with any additional cover and backfill positions.

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