Winter 2020 issue
Est. Reading: 7 minutes

Staff Support Sessions

COVID Vaccine for Staff

As we go to print, we have vaccinated almost 3,000 of our staff which is almost 50% of our total workforce. Several wards (Rosebank and Leadenhall ward in Tower Hamlets) are reporting 100% of their staff are vaccinated.

We first offered the COVID vaccine to frontline staff and staff who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) but with many of those now vaccinated, the offer then opened to all health and social care staff in keeping with the Government Vaccine Priority listing.

Some staff not yet have had the vaccine for health reasons: those who have had a positive PCR test within the last 28 days, have had coronavirus symptoms or who may have been told by their doctor they should not have the vaccine.

We are strongly urging staff to have the COVID vaccine if they can. We are aware that some staff have reservations and want more information about the vaccine. So the Trust has provided key information in twice weekly updates and communications to ensure staff can access webinars, data, reports and submit their questions to a panel of ELFT experts. We have featured ‘Staff COVID Vaccine’ stories so that staff can hear from others what made them opt to have the COVID vaccine.

Supporting Staff During the Pandemic

The Trust is aware that the pandemic has affected staff in many different ways. At work, they have responded and adapted to the huge demands in mental health, community health and primary care services to ensure that people are supported and cared for.

But they also have had to contend with the same personal stresses that everyone has had to face such as managing childcare, home schooling, coping with isolation, coping with illness, bereavement and loss, and adapting to the social restrictions of lockdown. Plus the worry that by using public transport to travel to work, working on COVID positive wards, and having close contact with others, that they might inadvertently contract coronavirus and pass it to their own family.

Director of People and Culture, Tanya Carter, is under no illusions about how hard this has been for staff and has spearheaded a number of measures to ensure they are fully supported.

Staff Support Sessions
Tanya set up and chaired sessions for staff in particular situations. Online virtual sessions have taken place for:

  • Staff who live alone – who might not have the usual outlets to talk about their day, how they feel, etc.
  • Staff and Apprentices who started in ELFT during the pandemic – who in many cases haven’t met their work colleagues in the flesh or been able to learn systems and processes face-to-face
  • staff returning from maternity or adoption leave – always a strange time as they adjust to being back at work while having a small child - but more so during the pandemic.
  • Staff who are shielding – who are worried about the risk to them of contracting COVID – but also report feeling guilty not to be working alongside their colleagues. This includes regular informative contact sessions & social connection sessions. These have been led by the Executive lead for ELFTAbility Dr Mohit Venkataram.
  • Staff experiencing Long COVID – some staff who contracted the coronavirus who have post-viral symptoms

Mental Health Wellbeing Support

Two wellbeing hubs have been set up in North East London (NEL) and in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK), in addition to the ELFT Employee Assistance Programme, Care First. These wellbeing hubs have been created for health and social care staff in all NHS settings in these areas in recognition of the need for staff to have somewhere to go if things become overwhelming. The advice to staff is to not take work stress and worries home or hold it in but to contact the hubs to get help and support. The hubs are being well used in both areas.

BLMK Staff
Offering free fast psychological support for staff. Keeping Well is a free confidential psychological support service run by care professionals for care professionals, in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes service. You can get help quickly by phone or online

NEL Staff:
Keeping Well NEL is a free confidential emotional wellbeing support service run by health care professionals for care professionals, in North East London. This a NHS funded service in response to COVID-19 outbreak. Help is available online, via Chatbots or by phone.

All ELFT Staff: Care First – 0800 174319:
ELFT’s Employee Assistance Programme provider, Care first, teamed up with the developers of Woebot to provide a free COVID-19 specific version of Woebot, an Artificial Intelligence counselling app. This offers 24/7 in the moment support, available any time as an app on your device. This is alongside the longstanding Care First offer of an anonymous call line directed to external registered counsellors and advisors who are available 24/7. Link to Woebot download instructions

Wellbeing Conversations:
ELFT’s wellbeing conversation campaign was set in motion based on a requirement set out by the NHS people plan. The requirement is that every employee have at least one wellbeing conversation with their manager per year. As a result of the pandemic, ELFT are encouraging that this conversation takes place as many times as necessary, as part of any interaction, either in 121’s, supervisions, catch ups etc. The Engagement & Wellbeing Team have created guides to assist managers and employees in 1) preparing for the conversation and 2) documenting personal progress using the wellbeing plan.

Support Sessions for Staff Who Are Parents/Guardians

Keyworker School Places
The Trust has supported staff to have the necessary keyworker documentation to enable their child/children to be in school.

Timetable of online Educational Activities
Additionally, the Trust has offered a selection of free activities for the children of staff who are parents or guardians. The activities are to supplement what the school is offering, rather than in place of it. All sessions are interactive and areled by qualified teachers who have had DBS checks. . A timetable of activities for each year group is issued each week. Staff can register their child/children for each specific session by 11.30 pm the night before.The session snow go up to 5pm.

Yoopies Childcare Platform
ELFT has partnered with an organisation called Yoopies. Yoopies is a platform provider where childcare seekers and childcare providers can connect. Their multi-criteria search (location, experience, languages spoken and availability) as well as real parent reviews, make it easy to search for care. ELFT covers the cost of £29 per month for every ELFT employee to access the platform using the registration code: Elft2020

Improving Family Relationships
We have offered parents and guardians support to improve communication between them and their youngsters. Lockdown and the social restrictions in place over the past year have impacted on family relationships with family members living in closer contact than ever before. The Non Violent Resistance or NVR training is a 10 week course that is free to staff but they must commit to the whole course. NVR training is an established course that strengthening parenting skills and improves familial relationships. Further courses will take place throughout the year.

Other wellbeing support offers

  • Wellbeing boost packs – At the start of the pandemic, ELFT was extremely grateful to receive an overwhelming number of donations and support from the local community and businesses at large. To date, we have managed to receive and logistically deliver over 25 000 pick me up items to our front line staff based in London, Luton & Bedfordshire
  • Hand sewn face coverings and laundry bags – Local North East London community sewing groups worked overtime to deliver nearly 3000 items for our frontline staff to use whilst commuting
  • Vitamin D offer – Throughout the winter of the pandemic, ELFT launched a ‘Sunshine in my Pocket’ campaign which offered all staff free access to 3 months’ supply of vitamin D to boost immunity and mood throughout the winter. This offer was taken up by nearly 3,000 members of staff.
  • Central NHS offers – There was an overwhelming offer of support through NHS England channels. ELFT worked to ensure all staff where kept up to date with these offers and knew how to access such. Offers still running are for the well-known mental wellbeing apps Sleepio & Headspace, free of charge
  • Wellbeing campaigns – To keep spirits up as well as our well-known ELFT community connection strong, we ran several campaigns for all staff – the stand up for your selfie campaign promoted movement & exercise during wave one and the winter wellbeing calendar promoted connection through ELFT staff lead book clubs and cooking groups etc. throughout the second wave
  • Remote working equipment – An approved list of office equipment was made available for staff to order from and get delivered to their home addresses. This meant that all staff working from home had an appropriate setting in which to do so
  • Staff Survey – Especially in the midst of the pandemic, it was important to understand how staff felt. We ran our Staff Survey campaign from September to November and are currently analysing the anonymous results to see where improvements can be made
  • COVID check in app – To check in regularly with staff with regards to what was working well or not working so well throughout the pandemic, we launched a Covid check in app, the data was analysed each month to enhance our wellbeing response
  • Wellbeing champion network – To better communicate our wellbeing offers to all staff, we created a network of champions, by way of volunteers. A first for ELFT initiative
  • MOT health checks – We ran our annual staff health checks at various sites throughout London, Luton & Bedfordshire
  • Desk yoga & ELFT fitness platform – Run by our very own ELFT staff, we have an ELFT fitness platform, including numerous exercise initiatives for staff to get involved in remotely
  • Wellbeing newsletter – As the wellbeing of ELFT staff became even more of a priority as the weeks and months of the pandemic went by, we launched a wellbeing specific newsletter, ELFT BE WELL. This encouraged and promoted wellbeing throughout the Trust
  • Altering of policies to assist staff throughout the pandemic – Eg. Carers leave adjustment from 5-10 days, COVID sickness related absences excluded from overall sickness etc.
  • Risk assessments – Ensuring that all staff had a completed risk assessment and ensuring that this is kept up-to-date to keep staff as safe as possible 
  • Captain Tom funding – We are incredibly grateful for the Captain Tom funding donated to the Trust, we used this to revamp and create pause/breakaway rooms at various sites


We are very proud that the People and Culture team behind these initiatives have been shortlisted for four wellbeing awards during the course of 2020. They have been shortlisted in The Engage Awards in the categories of:

  • Best Employee Support Strategy During a Crisis
  • Best Employee Wellbeing Strategy
  • NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) - Compassion and Equality in employee relations.

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