NHS Business Services Authority has won the ‘Judges Award’ at the North East Contact Centre Awards NECCA, a special award that has never been given out before, for its outstanding work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NECCA awards recognise and celebrate excellence in the North East Contact Centre industry. The awards took place virtually this year, on Friday night (20 November).

Dan Britton, Head of the Contact Centre, said: “We are proud of winning this award, we have won something that you couldn’t apply for and has never been won before. So you have to do something really special to get it, I am really pleased with our achievement.”

At the start of the pandemic NHS Business Services Authority’s (NHSBSA) national contact centre in Newcastle was taking about 9,000 queries a day, mainly through its NHS 111 COVID phone line. Some difficult calls came from people worried about symptoms and about vulnerable loved ones getting ill or dying.

However before the pandemic struck, staff did a very different job. They handled free prescriptions like maternity certificates, free eye tests, EHIC for European travel, and pensions queries etc. Busy call handlers dealt with 5.2 million calls, emails and social posts a year, covering 23 services. The opening hours were largely 9-5, including some hours on Saturdays.

When COVID-19 hit, and things changed almost overnight, they were quick to volunteer to step up and provide 24/7 services.

As well as operating a PPE helpline and a COVID-19 111 service, NHSBSA’s contact centre also helped with setting up Covid-19 testing. UK companies have been asked to build a diagnostics industry by the government. Within just 24 hours NHSBSA set up a triage for diagnostics, to triage and escalate offers received by companies. Scripts were drafted and 50 call handlers were trained in this short time. All offers and contact from companies were recorded in one system, meaning it could easily be tracked and managed.

Recently the contact centre has also supported the launch of the NHS Covid-19 App and taken on a COVID-19 helpline for schools and other educational establishments, on behalf of PHE and DfE. It has also stood up a Vaccination Recruitment Service, on behalf of NHSE&I to support online users registering to administer future vaccines.

For more information on NECCA go to https://www.necca.co.uk/