Building the NHS relationship with the Armed Forces

ERS Gold Award winners

Matt House (pictured: second from right) is a consultant paramedic at North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) and has been a part of the Reserve Forces since 1994. In this blog, he explains how being a reservist helps him build the relationship between his trust and the Army, the flexibility his civilian career brings him, and the benefits his military skills bring to the NHS.

I joined the Reserve Forces in 1994 looking for the opportunity to challenge myself and do something a bit different. Since then, I’ve been deployed three times to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and have taken away a wide range of experiences from each. My time in Bosnia mainly involved working in primary care, in Iraq I was training Iraqi medics, and in Afghanistan I provided support and mentoring to the Afghan National Army and police force. I developed an interest in the clinical side of things during my time as a combat medic, and it was this that led me to consider a career in the NHS, and ultimately my current role as a consultant paramedic. The military have led the way in terms of trauma care, and the management of major incidents so the training and experience I have gained from the military has stood me in good stead for my civilian career.

When I initially interviewed for a job within the NHS, I was able to use examples from my military experience that related to team work and leadership, which gave me a good advantage. Being deployed has also allowed me to develop my clinical knowledge and skills in a way that complements my work in the NHS. Having developed my career in the NHS, I am now more involved in strategic developments and quality improvement. Being involved in the development of new guidelines, such as those for cardiac arrest is a big part of my motivation. Again, the organisational skills that the military fosters have helped in this area of my work.

NWAS recognise that military people hold the same values and standards that we expect in the ambulance service. To encourage service leavers, veterans and reservists to join NWAS, we hold an annual event where anyone from the Armed Forces community can get advice on recruitment and explore the range of jobs available within the ambulance service. This is not just in the clinical side, but also other jobs within the trust, such as fleet management, administration and training. Partly because of my understanding of the Army, NWAS was one of the first trusts to develop a very strong relationship with the military. We have created a bespoke induction package for military medics, after which we guarantee them shifts on our frontline vehicles on an honorary contract. This helps the medics maintain their clinical skills, and assists the trust with workforce supply. This has been very successful, as not only are all of these military paramedics still working for us, but also our connections with the Army in this capacity have contributed towards NWAS achieving the Gold Employer Recognition Scheme award. We are working towards a seamless transition between a military and civilian life; the ambulance service’s ambition is that service leavers can leave the military on Friday and be fully employed by us and starting their first shift on Saturday morning.

Reservist training provides a wealth of experience throughout each year, including a two-week annual deployment exercise, during which you have the opportunity to develop skills and receive training that may not be accessible through the NHS. In 20 years in the ambulance service, I’ve not had any issues in taking the time off to attend this yearly exercise. My workplace gives me two weeks additional leave, so it doesn’t impact my standard amount of annual leave. Both my military and civilian employers are very flexible in their approach to balancing my military and civilian lives, so there’s very few sticking points. I’m lucky to work for both an NHS employer that recognises the benefits of the military and a military employer who understands the NHS.

You can find out more about reservists and the Armed Forces community by visiting our dedicated web section, and read more about what we’re doing this Military March on our campaign web page.


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