Jobless IT experts join NHS on front line

Out-of-work IT professionals have been working for free to help the NHS during Lockdown.

Recruitment agency VIQU began offering their services – along with others at massively reduced rates – after finding volunteers among experts on their books.

With the help of Oscar Research, who gave them access to their database, they were able to contact CEOs and Heads of IT for every NHS Trust and blue light service in the UK.

So far, they’ve placed 140 people with Trusts in Birmingham and Southampton, where they have offices, as well as those in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

They say they had a lot of interest from Trusts looking to temporarily fill roles such as developers, project managers, business analysts, cloud consultants and infrastructure support and deployment. Even if, for some, it initially appeared too good to be true.

“When we were approached by the guys at VIQU, we were worried it was some sort of scam,” said Mike Ogonovsky, Assistant Director of Informatics at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

”Instead, what we found in our hour of need was masses of goodwill, expert IT volunteers and much needed help to support our Health Board, which has been hit hard by COVID -19. The impact of these volunteers has been felt by our medical staff and our appreciative Informatics team.”

my closest friend and mother both work on the front line for the NHS, so being able to give back and support them with my skills is the least I can do

Initially, the volunteers were needed because of skills shortfalls due to self-isolation or sickness. But some Trusts saw this was an opportunity to take volunteer contractors on board with expertise that they would not have been able to afford in normal circumstances.

Alex Michael who Volunteered for North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “Like many people, I have been impacted by the pandemic. It resulted in me losing my contract.

“A couple of weeks ago, I noticed VIQU post a request for a volunteer Scrum Master to support the NHS. From a personal perspective, my closest friend and mother both work on the front line for the NHS, so being able to give back and support them with my skills is the least I can do. I want to support them as they are supporting us.”

Some volunteering roles have been particularly heart-warming. One Trust had stopped all patient visitors, including those to a ward for end-of-life patients. VIQU arranged for volunteer engineers to configure more than 200 iPads, and visit the ward, in full PPE, to show the patients how to use them so they could spend time with friends and family.

Nicholas Hopkins, VIQU Associate Director, said not only has volunteering provided them with a focus, it has resulted in job offers in some cases.

“This is my 10th year in the recruitment industry and I can honestly say it has been the most fulfilling one for me,” he said.

“Since our Managing Director Matt Collingwood reached out to all of the UK Trusts, I’ve never been busier. It’s been stressful for the whole team, but seeing the burning desire so many IT professionals have to donate their time has been truly humbling for all of us and something we will never forget.”