Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has received the Ministry of Defence’s highest award in recognition of the support it provides to the armed forces community in North Wales.

BCUHB is one of four recently announced Welsh winners of the prestigious Gold Award under the MoD’s Employer Recognition Scheme, which celebrates armed forces friendly employers.

The Health Board, which employs a number of armed forces reservists among its 16,500 staff, has been hailed as a model example to other large employers.

BCUHB has been recognised for the wide range of support given to its reservist and army cadet force volunteer staff, as well as the wider armed forces community in North Wales.

This support includes paid leave to allow reservist staff to fulfil their duties within the armed forces and a range of person-centred support for those making the transition from deployment back to the workplace.

The Health Board also plays a lead role in the North Wales Armed Forces Forum, which was established in 2013 by BCUHB Chairman, Dr Peter Higson. The forum brings more than 70 organisations from across North Wales together to ensure that support for the armed forces community is joined up to meet their specific needs.

Among the initiatives borne out of the forum is a peer-mentor programme for armed forces veterans, which is the first of its kind in the UK. The innovative collaboration between BCUHB, Veterans’ NHS Wales and the Change Step charity is enabling veterans in North Wales to receive a full range of support during their transition back to civilian life.

Tony Fish, Regional Employer Engagement Director for the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association in Wales, said: “BCUHB’s support for the armed forces community is a model example to other large employers. Their commitment to their reservist staff goes above and beyond the minimum standards that one might expect of an armed forces friendly employer.

“Because of its championing of its reservist staff and track record of supporting the armed forces community in North Wales, BCUHB has shown itself to be a fantastic ambassador and advocate for defence.”

Among the BCUHB staff who combine a career in the NHS with service in the armed forces is Dr Mark Knights, a Consultant Anaesthetist at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.

For the past 5 years, Dr Knights has worked as an Army anaesthetist with 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 to work in the hospital in Camp Bastion, Helmand Province. Since then he has been mobilised again and has attended many training exercises with the field hospital.

He said: “I have always felt that BCUHB has supported and valued my Reservist work. The organisation has been fully supportive to me on both occasions that I was mobilised and on my return to work. They have supported all of my training commitments.

“The annual Reserves Day celebrations demonstrate that BCUHB appreciate the mutual benefits that Reservists deliver for both the Armed Forces and the NHS in North Wales.”

Dr Peter Higson, who will retire as BCUHB Chairman at the end of August, said: “I’m extremely proud of the leading role the Health Board has played in championing and supporting the armed forces community in North Wales during my tenure as Chair of BCUHB and the Wales Armed Forces Forum.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the dedication and selflessness of the many staff from across the Health Board who combine a career in the NHS with service in the armed forces.”

Dr Mark Knights (far left) with other BCUHB reservist staff who are part of 203 Field Hospital

Main Photo (Top) BCUHB Chairman Peter Higson and Chief Executive Gary Doherty with some of the Health Board