Nursing agency keeps up frontline support as new owner takes up remote role

 Ipswich nursing agency Poppy Nursing and Care Services sale deal

Poppy's new owner Ash Higgs of MCG flanked by Claire Woodman, left, and Kelly-Anne Byres who sold the business last year - Credit: Poppy Nursing and Care Services Ltd

The new owner of an Ipswich nursing agency says it is "proud to be part of that fight" as it provides back-up to health and care services struggling under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watford recruitment agency MCG Group has faced a number of challenges after snapping up Poppy Nursing and Care Services at the end of last year - as lockdown made it hard to meet up with the new team.

But MCG Group managing director Ash Higgs said they had striven to overcome the difficulties and currently had 80-100 of their agency nurses and healthcare assistants working on NHS sites.

"During a normal acquisition period, I would usually spend 95% of my time at the new offices and with the staff. However, I have only been able to meet a few staff members on a couple of occasions, either at a two-metre distance or through a computer screen," he said.

"However, we have managed the majority of the integration remotely and thankfully the relationships we have built with the senior team have proved invaluable to communicating beyond the HQ."

Poppy Nursing and Care Services was founded by accountant Kelly-Anne Byres and nurse Claire Woodman in 2014 after they spotted a gap in the market for providing hospital and care home staff. They sold it at the end of last year to the fast-growing MCG Group which has now snapped up four businesses in the last two years. MCG provides services across a range of sectors, including aerospace and aviation, construction, education, healthcare and technology.

"Nothing tests the basic factors of a successful merger and acquisition like a pandemic," said Mr Higgs.

"Analysis of the market is difficult during unprecedented times, developing a rapport with key players is even more challenging, and as for bedding in once the deal is done, it’s impossible to follow your normal protocol.

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"But we have learnt a number of lessons navigating this process in 2020 including the importance of establishing relationships, keeping your goals in mind and embracing and adapting to challenges as they present themselves.

"Above all, we have realised how vital it is to maintain consistency for staff – particularly when those staff are the ones on the frontline caring for Covid patients and administering vaccinations.

A shared culture across the two businesses had eased the transition he said. Almost all of the firm's are assisting on Covid wards across East Anglia, where they provide vital back-up when permanent NHS staff are absent due to illness and self-isolation,  he said.

"The agency has become an important resource for hospitals and care homes around the region as they have desperately struggled with the influx of cases and the shortage of beds," he added.

"Like all frontline staff, our nurses and care workers have had to adapt quickly to the current climate taking on an increased workload, more PPE (personal protective equipment) and manage the fast and quite traumatic environment on the wards.

"But the company culture – to support and nurture staff and place an emphasis on quality care – has come to the forefront, simply enhanced by our own “people first” ethos."

The company has managed to keep continuity going within the business and to recruit and retain nurses - with an average of four joining the team each week.

"We know that working in healthcare can be very difficult – especially right now - so we do our best to look after our team and our clients – providing the best nurses to fill the gapping holes within the NHS – which translates into the best patient care," said Mr Higgs.