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The community works for health

18An innovative training project at Barts Health NHS Trust has this year helped nearly 700 people from across east London in their search for employment.

On 12 November 2015, Barts Health staff and community partners gathered at an awards ceremony to thank everyone on this year’s Community Works for Health programme and celebrated how they are now putting their skills to use improving the health of the community.

Many of them disadvantaged young people, facing complex health conditions or mums returning to work after a career-break, the awards congratulated the 100 people who have this year secured a job with Barts Health after undertaking training and placement opportunities with the Trust; a further 98 who began apprenticeships; 113 who attended 6-week admin and clerical work placements and 153 who completed NHS employability training.

Trust positions secured through the scheme included nursing and laboratory assistants as well as positions in clinical and corporate teams.

The project aims to support people from deprived communities in east London, particularly those with a disability, long term condition or poor health history which can make it harder for them to secure employment.

Having started when Barts Health NHS Trust formed in April 2013, the programme has seen ever growing numbers of local people enrol each year to the free programme. Many stay on at the Trust or join local partners in health and social care, using their skills to help improve the lives of others.

Sadhek Khan, community programmes manager at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “Recognising that employment is linked to improved health outcomes, we seek to provide people with essential training or work experience and a reference, plus boost their confidence to help them to break into the world of work.

“We are immensely proud of the dedication that everyone has shown to improving their health and to using their learning to achieve better health outcomes for the whole of east London.”

In east London there are more than 30,000 people receiving unemployment benefits and approximately 50 per cent of these benefits are health related.

Tower Hamlets has the second highest unemployment rate in London, with every ward having a higher proportion of people claiming out of work benefits than the London average.

Tessa Somerville, age 56

Speaking at the awards was Tessa Somerville, volunteer turned employed healthcare assistant at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Diagnosed with cancer in 2003, she was forced to stop working during treatment. “But always one to work hard, I started volunteering to befriend older people and as my condition improved I joined a Trust panel to improve patient satisfaction then volunteered as an extra pair of hands to help on a ward”, Tessa explained.

Over the years as her health continued to improve, the Trust’s volunteer co-ordinator, Nancy Whiskin, advised Tessa about the Community Works for Health programme.

Tessa continued: “The pathway changed my life. My employment prospects increased with training to pass an assessment in English and Maths, which is necessary for a job at the Trust. I also learnt about the various policies that are essential when working in healthcare, including the Data Protection Act, the Mental Health Act and the Dementia Care Act.

“Importantly, the programme also raised my confidence, trained me to present myself better and helped me write a job-specific CV. All of this helped me secure a job as a healthcare assistant at St Bartholomew’s Hospital which I thoroughly enjoy.

“I see the new role as a reward for my efforts to persevere and seek employment. It is also my way of giving back to the hospital that helped me recover from my illness.”