On March 18, Boris Johnson declared he was leading a “wartime government”...
Four weeks later, that sentiment feels very apt. Certainly, the response of UK industry in support of the government has echoes of the 1939 industrial war-effort. Companies across the UK are collaborating and innovating together in ways that would be unthinkable under normal circumstances – with a focus on keeping the country’s vital services running and helping to save as many lives as possible.
As one of the UK government’s largest strategic suppliers, with more than 40,000 people across the nation, Capita has been right in the thick of it. The spirit and sense of national purpose is palpable in the teams with which I’ve been involved - within Capita, our government clients, and the many consulting and industrial partners we are working with. Through the hard work of our people, we have not only re-organised to maintain and build resilience in the myriad critical national services we run, but we’ve also executed entirely new services for government in previously unimaginable timescales.
The scope of our normal operation for government is vast – Tussell identified Capita as the single largest provider of information technology-based services to government in healthcare, welfare, education, defence & security, critical national infrastructure and local government services. All of these services are more vital than ever right now.
In four weeks, our fantastic teams across Capita have enabled more than 30,000 of our own colleagues to work from home, a number that continues to increase as we move more people out of offices. That’s involved the implementation of vast amounts of new IT and software, and also agreeing entirely new processes with our clients – all the while ensuring we maintain security. This rapid shift has protected our colleagues, while maintaining essential services in healthcare, welfare, justice and more. We’ve been mobilising the same move to remote operations across government departments and agencies, and for critical supporting industries like telecoms providers.
We have a significant number of key workers whose roles cannot be performed from home and who are engaged in essential services – for example, the handling of paper medical records for Primary Care Support England and the running of the Defence Fire and Rescue service. We are following all government guidance to ensure the safety of these colleagues.
The personal toll of this virus on individuals has been devastating for many. We all know people who are vulnerable, isolated and afraid. We have colleagues who are unwell and others who need to care for family members. Likewise, many of us will know individuals who are suffering the loss of loved ones. There can be no doubt we will all be changed by this experience.
Against this context, it has been uplifting to see what can be achieved through genuine cooperation. The whole Capita team has pulled together, pivoting our resources to critical national tasks in extraordinary timeframes.
Over the first weekend our team mobilised to support the recruitment and clearance of NHS workers – rapidly ramping up to over 1,000 per day. In the same period, we commenced mobilisation of resources to strengthen and stand up contact centres for departments across government, to support citizens through the crisis. Within days we stood up new services to help central Government mobilise and share resources and enabled NHS England to communicate with 1.4 million vulnerable people to support them in self-isolation.
Over the last four weeks our teams have continued to work tirelessly to support our clients. Working with Government and the food industry, our Food and Environmental Research Agency team is loaning vital test equipment and focusing research on methods to accelerate Covid-19 testing. Over 500 staff are in new positions operating contact centres for citizens and this will soon be reaching the thousands, with AI and robotic process automation technology being introduced to accelerate support for people in need. We are maintaining critical network infrastructure for schools and academies across the UK, at a time when it is most needed.
The intensity and pace at which we are all working is exhausting. The idea of my normal 90-minute commute into London, where I can focus on only one thing, seems like a pleasant and distant memory. I know many of you will be feeling similarly frazzled. The amazing work being done is taking place against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future, home-schooling for kids, balancing childcare for younger ones, caring for vulnerable or poorly family members, living alone with only virtual interaction, and generally coping with the current realities of the new normal. It makes it all the more incredible.
Thanks to all my Capita and industry colleagues for supporting the Covid war effort.