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Librarian, Vasanthi Elder, talks about her secondment with NHS England to research behaviour change during the Covid-19 pandemic

Thursday, 21 January, 2021
Librarian, Vasanthi Elder, talks about her secondment with NHS England to research behaviour change during the Covid-19 pandemic

Before taking the secondment I was a Librarian and I managed the library at The Northumbria Hospital in Cramlington. After I had completed the NHS Leadership Academy’s ‘Stepping Up Programme’ in 2019, I was looking for a challenge to flex my newly found confidence and skills. When this opportunity arose, I was initially daunted at the prospect of working at a more senior level. However, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take the plunge!

My secondment is as a Knowledge Manager in the Covid-19 Behavioural Change Unit (BCU) at NHS England and Improvement in London although I am currently working from home.

The BCU is a team headed up by Professor Matthew Cripps, NHS Director of Sustainable Healthcare, to support various national projects around behaviour change relating to Covid-19, health improvement and beyond. I work with a team with a wide range of expertise which includes clinicians, clinical fellows, behaviour specialists and process engineers.

In this role I feel a sense of excitement and pride that, even in a small way, I am contributing to so many national and regional projects such as one around the communication and messaging around the vaccine rollout for immunocompromised patients.

I am also working on other projects around the issues and challenges of healthcare delivery in the current pandemic. It is really humbling that my contribution has a real impact.

Working with the BCU has also given me the opportunity to share the amazing work that we do in the Trust. For example, I’m working on the development of an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) marginal gains toolkit and I’m highlighting examples of the stellar work that we’ve done in the Trust around inclusion. The fact that we’ve been so proactive in the Trust and the positive results is something I was proud to share.

My role includes facilitating learning before, during and after all significant projects in the unit and wider teams. This also includes sharing knowledge and information across teams and helping to generate and curate new ideas within teams. This includes looking for evidence and facilitating workshops and learning events by using knowledge management tools like ‘fish bowl exercises’ and ‘knowledge cafes. I also manage a team of two information specialists to support this.

It is a real privilege to work with such a dynamic and diverse team of experts across so many areas. Their drive and positivity is hugely motivating. As everyone in the team is working remotely, I have found that I have to be proactive to make links and facilitate communication. It is truly satisfying when my efforts come together and it’s really boosted my confidence.

The secondment continues to be positive learning experience. I am constantly picking up new ideas and I am very excited about bringing what I’ve learned back to my team and other Trust colleagues.

I would strongly recommend doing a secondment to anyone. It gives you a broader perspective about the range of NHS careers available, as well as providing opportunities to meet new people and share your experience and learning to a wider audience. Go for it!