Blog post

Setting the silver standard with the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme

Jacqui Bunce tells us how NHS Lincolnshire ICB gained both their bronze and silver accreditation within a year.

7 June 2024

Within a year of our formation, NHS Lincolnshire integrated care board (ICB) gained both the bronze and silver Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) award. 

As a county we have among the largest number of veterans and their families, alongside a significant number of current serving members and families. So, our aim is to enable any member of the Armed Forces family, including reservists, to join any part of the NHS in Lincolnshire and to receive the same level of commitments and opportunities.

We recognise that as a small ICB and integrated care system (ICS) we are very fortunate to have close connections and relationships with healthcare providers across our area. We reviewed the providers’ policies and systems for supporting staff, including those who have served, reservists and family members, and then compared with ours to check that we were offering the same opportunities. 

We achieved silver by working through the guidance that the East Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association shared and, with the help of my HR colleague Michelle Jenkins, completing the required documentation.

Achieving the award relied on the passion and drive of the ICB Armed Forces lead and her HR colleague to work with partners and gain the executive commitment to obtaining the silver award, as well as a commitment to achieving parity with our NHS provider partners in Lincolnshire.

Achieving the silver award has demonstrated the ICB's commitment to the Armed Forces family and the award has been published and celebrated in newsletters and at board and executive meetings. The number of Armed Forces family members who have identified themselves has increased and we believe we will have our first reservist member of staff in the next few months. 

It has also demonstrated to our partner organisations the commitment of the ICB. Since receiving these awards, we have held a number of events together, including Step Into Health events and remembrance services. 

The feedback has been very positive from attendees and from leads across the system. I have been invited to a number of the Armed Forces staff networks and have a standing agenda slot to share the work that the ICB and ICS are doing.

Supporting reservists

NHS Lincolnshire ICB supports reservists by offering five days paid leave for mandatory training to develop their skills, so that when called upon they are trained, able and ready to respond.

We are mobilisation positive and as part of our Mobilisation Framework, pre-mobilisation includes:

  • A planned handover of current and planned activities, to the manager and team members.
  • Enabling the reservist to attend pre-mobilisation activities.
  • Working with the reservist to plan leave, including carrying over up to 5 days of leave with director agreement.
  • Ensuring that any appraisal reviews are held to review progress against targets, development and pending pay review, so that the reservist does not miss out due to being away.
  • Ensuring that the reservist and their family are aware of and have access to our Employee Assistance Programme.

Post mobilisation we do the following:

  • Welcome the reservist back and listen to their experiences, update them on organisational, team and work activity, and review their mandatory training and professional registration. 
  • We offer a planned phased return to work over four weeks to incorporate return of kit and build capacity, with daily catch ups in the first week and weekly reviews and adjustment as required. There will be a final review to reflect on the process and provide feedback and learning.
  • As part of their performance development review, we take the opportunity to discuss their learning and skills and revise plans accordingly to support personal, role and organisational development.

Takeaway tips

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Our advice would be to go for the silver award. The benefits to the organisation of recognising and supporting the Armed Forces family are demonstrable and feedback from staff has been very positive. Engage with your HR team and ensure you have a champion within that team. And finally pinch with pride! Learn and borrow from neighbouring NHS organisations. We want parity across the NHS organisations so that members of the Armed Forces family and Reservists can move seamlessly between partner NHS organisations with the same recognition and benefits.

For more information about the work in this case study, please get in touch.