Deirdre Saliba joined HUC in January 2020 as the new Head of Human Resources, Strategy and Insourcing after a team restructure. Within two short months of her start date amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, her focus in her new role completely changed to keeping our colleagues safe and vital NHS services running during a pandemic. Her expert background in health and social care helped her hit the ground running in changed circumstances while still delivering many of the organisation’s Good to Outstanding strategy initiatives. These included a new performance appraisal system and a pay, benefits and benchmarking review. Today, Deirdre shares her insight on what it meant joining an NHS provider organisation during a pandemic.

Not only starting a new role with an ambitious brief, but also working in a complex, rapidly changing and adapting healthcare environment, Deirdre Saliba says the past one year has not only been challenging but a steep learning curve for her. She had her plans on how the HR function would work more effectively across HUC, but she admits the first wave of COVID-19 did throw her sideways several times. “I felt I needed to be guiding the team, supporting the communications process with our colleagues and managers at a time when information was changing on a daily basis, so the circumstances were not the best,” she recalls.

“A huge change management process was also in place at the time as part of our corporate Good to Outstanding strategy, whilst we as a team needed to continue business as usual with our ongoing recruitment and development programmes. A special focus was on becoming a great place to work, for which my team and I continued to deliver a number of key initiatives. Many of these affected everyone in the organisation and helped us work better together at a time of immense pressure and strain not only on the system but individuals as well. One example would be the introduction of a new performance appraisal process. At an incredibly busy time, we were asking managers to complete annual appraisals and work through the objectives with their teams, having vital conversations with team members, which can be quite time consuming. We all felt it was very important that these conversations still take place to help us work together efficiently and make sure our colleagues were well supported, especially at a time like this. It also helped to establish clear objectives and development plans for everyone across the organisation, which helps us deliver the high-quality care we always aim for.”

With her background in health and social care, Deirdre knew about HUC and the services we offer before she joined. “But I didn’t realise the complexity of how the system works,“ Deirdre says. The Integrated Urgent Care (IUC) is an intricate system of NHS 111 and Out of Hours working together to deliver high quality clinical assessment, advice, treatment and where required ongoing referral.

“HUC as an organisation is on a really exciting trajectory and the role seemed a natural fit for me as I’m someone who’s always been a people’s person,” she says. “It is important to highlight the amazing work that’s being done at HUC to people who are interested in being a part of this journey, working with us,” Deirdre elaborates, adding, “I have come across very keen people across HUC, who are willing and eager to learn and grow in the organisation. From an HR perspective, it is fabulous to come into an organisation where people are on the same page: they want to improve how we work together and how we innovate our services.”

Our motto of ‘Putting the patient at the start and heart of our care’ is something Deirdre has noticed in many colleagues working here and she believes people really mean it and are very dedicated to the cause. “Every day is about improving ourselves and making it better for the patient, that’s our shared ethos,” she says. “Similarly, the values of the organisation are present in everyone I meet. They are very keen to share how they made a difference, tell you a story and the delight they get from it, it’s just marvellous. It takes a very special person to work at HUC and no matter what the role is, everyone feels part of the organisation,” she adds.

One of her favourite memories from the last 12 months was during her induction when she spent some time with our drivers. “That to me gave a real insight into the organisation. Their driving job isn’t just limited to that – they ensure the vehicle is clean, well-stocked with medicines and equipment and has everything the doctor needs for his visit. It was extremely insightful to see and to understand what they do and how proud they are of their contribution towards the community.”
So, based on that shared ethos, our values and her experience of people at HUC, what does our Head of HR think we should be looking at when hiring, what qualities make a person stand out?

“It is important that we bring in like-minded people, who are caring, innovative, accountable, and collaborative with colleagues as we are all one big team. It is a challenging environment for anyone working here as no two days are the same and one must be on that front foot most of the time. It’s about being a self-starter and being motivated to be able to set those priorities accordingly,” she elucidates. “You must be prepared to roll your sleeves up – no matter what role you are in. You should be brave to try new things. And, I would say you need to be quite resilient, it’s such a challenging and fast paced environment. We have a very supportive culture and it’s okay to ask a question, it’s okay to seek support, and it’s okay to escalate a situation. We are an open and transparent organisation. And, that’s probably the best part of the make-up of HUC,” she signs off.