"I just wanted to do my bit," says Worksop NHS communications officer, of his BEM in New Year Honours List

"It was a shock,” reveals Damian Staples, of the moment he opened the email, revealing he’d been recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

By Nik Farah
Monday, 4th January 2021, 11:27 am
Damian Staples, Communications Officer, The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.
Damian Staples, Communications Officer, The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

"To be honest I thought it was a joke at first, it was such a surprise.

"I think 2020 has seen everybody just pull together and do what they can, and – like everyone else – I wanted to do my bit.”

Damian, a communications officer at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, has received a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours List, for services to the NHS during Covid-19

Damian, aged 32, single-handedly ensured that staff at the Trust were kept fully informed of the changing situation as it broke out, providing emotional support and guidance to colleagues under stress, and offering to cover staff shortages - even continuing to work from home as he battled the virus himself.Damian, of Worksop, also took on additional duties, which included setting up and manning a staff Covid-19 helpline, providing information, support and a triage service to staff and family members who displayed symptoms of the virus, and booking people in for swab tests when required.

He also played a valuable role working with partners across Rotherham to ensure a clear, consistent approach to communications, working with colleagues at the Clinic Commissioning Group, local Trusts, council and the voluntary sector.

“I’m not a frontline worker, but as a communications officer, I felt a responsibility to help keep people informed of what was happening, especially in the early days when guidelines were changing so quickly,” says Damian, who has worked within the NHS for seven years.

"In the beginning of the pandemic, things were moving rapidly. At 4pm one afternoon, we were talking about needing a helpline setting up for staff, and by 6am the next morning, it was up and running.

"Everyone was working together and learning at the same time – if we got something wrong, we quickly figured out how to get it right, and do what was needed."

Living alone, Damian explains that work provided a focus for him, particularly during the first lockdown, and he threw himself into it.

He would often get into work at 6am, helping out for a few hours in the morning before his regular duties began at 9am.

According to the official award, Damian also helped to set up antibody testing for staff, and provided help and support wherever it was needed throughout the year, including helping colleagues in the hospital charity shop with donations,. which he ensured were distributed to staff in a safe way.

And even when he caught the virus himself, Damian continued to work from home.

"Luckily, other than a cough and feeling a bit under the weather, I wasn’t too badly affected, so I was able to keep going with work,” he recalls.

“There was so much to do, and so many people to help.”

Speaking of the award, which he was notified of last month, Damian added: "I’ve seen so many people working so hard this year, to do what’s needed to be done, and so to receive this recognition is just a big shock.”