Blog post

Hull's journey to Defence employer award gold

How Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust worked to achieve the coveted Defence Employer Recognition scheme gold status.

12 December 2020


  • Jan Fillinger NHS Armed Forces Champion at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Jan Fillinger, NHS Armed Forces Champion at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust writes about how the organisation was recognised for its support of the Armed Forces community.

As the spouse of a retired USA Army veteran with a passion for supporting the Armed Forces community, I have shared the experience of supporting the Armed Forces community within my trust with my husband. In 2017, while working as a team leader, I raised the question of who the trust’s contact for Armed Forces personnel was. Since that day, I have been the trust’s Armed Forces contact.

I began by posting a blog on the trust’s intranet asking if like-minded staff would join me in my endeavour to support the Armed Forces. Our chief executive, Chris Long, has been incredibly supportive, providing useful suggestions on how to move forward and gain momentum. I presented my case for supporting the Armed Forces community at senior meetings across a variety of departments. This was challenging at times, as some departments were a little cautious about agreeing to offer their support. Unfortunately, there were some misconceptions around the Armed Forces community and the unpredictable nature of their responsibilities - this was one of the biggest barriers I faced.

So, how did we achieve gold despite the challenges?

Our journey really kicked off in 2018, when we signed the Armed Forces Covenant, were awarded the Bronze Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) award and began working with the Step into Health programme. In 2019, we were awarded Veteran Aware status off the back of implementing the clinically-led improvement programme, ‘Getting It Right First Time’. To showcase these achievements, the trust has added the Veteran Aware logo to external emails, encourages staff to display the ERS logos on email signatures and exhibits posters throughout the organisation.

We have twelve Armed Forces champions across the trust who actively work to increase awareness of the Armed Forces community and available training amongst colleagues. We have identified several leads who proactively advocate and support defence through the provision of information regarding relevant internal policies and external services, including Citizens Advice and the Veterans Gateway. This information is passed on to reservists and veterans who currently work for, or who wish to work for, the trust.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, we offered work placements to several veterans and transitioning Armed Forces personnel. When an Armed Forces champion becomes aware that a new starter is a reservist, they contact the new starter to introduce themselves, offer advice and assess the support that can be provided. For instance, our training and mobilisation policy offers reservist employees an additional two weeks of paid leave per year to enable reservists to attend their annual camp.

In addition, the trust is currently updating its recruitment processes and is updating its managerial training programmes to include relevant Armed Forces training, highlighting our ongoing dedication to supporting the Armed Forces. Frequent reservist recruitment sessions are also held across both of our sites.

One of our proudest achievements came in 2019, when we were one of three companies shortlisted for the Heropreneurs Awards, a charity award event celebrating the energy, passion and dedication shown by members of the Armed Forces community in seeking for new business opportunities. We were shortlisted in the ‘Large Employer of the Year’ category, which we are proud of because it reflects our dedication to supporting the Armed Forces community.

In 2020, we were proud to finally receive the Gold ERS award. However, though we have our gold, our hard work will not stop. We are in the process of developing further training sessions for managers to ensure they are well-informed on all matters relating to the Armed Forces community, working alongside York St John’s University and Hull City Council to deliver these sessions.

My advice to others starting their journey? Don’t give up. You may experience knock-backs along the way but keep pushing forward - it really is worth it.