Managing sickness absence during a pandemic…

COVID-19 has bought many challenges to us all this year and as a provider of healthcare services working alongside the NHS, Totally has been at the forefront of responding to the pandemic. Following the news in March that cases of COVID-19 in the UK were increasing, an internal management system to protect the workforce as much as possible was introduced across Totally and its subsidiary businesses. Dean Payne, Director of Clinical Innovation, describes how through collaborative working and clinical innovation the team executed the implementation of a new sickness and absence management service within weeks of the outbreak, to ensure minimal impact on frontline services.

Dean PayneIn March 2020, the Sickness and Absence Management Service (SAMS) was developed from our internal workforce to provide clinical support for employees during the pandemic. The team consisted of experienced nurses with specialist health coaching training who were able to provide guidance across a range of clinical categories as well as COVID-19. The early success of the SAMS team encouraged the expansion of the service to support all absence, not just COVID-19 related and has since been an integral part of our human resources management programme.


As it became apparent that specific factors appeared to be contributing to the severity of COVID-19 symptoms, such as ethnicity and gender, SAMS introduced a clinical risk matrix to help identify individuals that may be prone to more severe symptoms. Subsequently, we additionally used these risk categorisations to inform the organisation’s individual workplace risk assessments to ensure that all risk factors were considered when creating a safe place to work.

Coughing personMost recently SAMS has also been able to use anonymised data to assist the organisation in developing an early warning system highlighting any locations with an increase in reported COVID-19 symptoms to help improve employee safety.


One of the most impressive elements to this support service was that it was conceived, modelled and implemented within seven days, with staff being trained, internal systems mobilised, clinical workflow algorithms created and validated, and complementary support systems enabled. This herculean effort was down to the abilities and skills of several teams working efficiently together, including Clinical, HR, Information Management and Technology (IM&T) and Governance who worked collaboratively towards a common goal.


The service has developed via an iterative process with not only the requirements to update clinical pathways with the latest information but also improving how the service benefits the Groups employees with respect to their health and wellbeing.


It continues to be very rewarding to have been involved in the development of this SAMS. To enable mobilisation so quickly during a time of huge change and intense pressure for healthcare services was a real achievement and I’m grateful to the hard work of the team that made it happen. We are continually working hard to assess its success and analysing all feedback to explore possibilities of how to continue developing and improving the service in future.





December 14, 2020 In: News Comments (None)