Out of the ordinary: Barclays’ medal-winning branch manager
Lisa Griffiths faced huge responsibilities in 2020. Coping with desperately ill family members and managing two Barclays branches during lockdown, Lisa also spearheaded a drive to support a local hospital and its patients. Now her efforts have been recognised with the award of the British Empire Medal.
Just two weeks into the first UK lockdown last year and on her son’s birthday, Lisa Griffiths’ father Melvin, who is 62, was admitted to hospital with COVID-19. By the following week, he was in a coma and ventilated in intensive care at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital.
Lisa, who has worked for Barclays for nine years, recalls: “He had kidney failure, the right side of his heart started to fail, he was completely unable to breathe without intervention, he lost 40% capacity of his lungs, he had blood clots. He was so unwell that the doctors put a ‘do not resuscitate’ order in place.”
At the time, says Lisa, she was still making the daily journey into the branches in Hampshire, UK, where she works as a local manager. “I have two children on my own and was taking care of them, while keeping my branches open and just taking care of my customers and staff – looking after them because they were feeling what I was feeling. Everybody was incredibly anxious during the first lockdown.”
When my dad first went into hospital, all I wanted to do was see him, but I couldn’t. But with the iPads, the first time they tried to wake my dad up, we were then able to see him.
Local Manager, Barclays UK
Her incredible drive to help her colleagues and her community while her father was fighting for his life, saw Lisa named in the Queen’s Honours list at the end of 2020.
The Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) award came as such a shock that she initially thought a notification email from the government’s Cabinet Office was a scam. “I got an email from them in September with the title COVID-19,” she says, “and I thought it was spam so didn’t initially open the email to view the content. Only later in the evening, I went back and read the details.” Possibly thanks to her anti-fraud training, Lisa googled the phone number and names involved, tracking them to a genuine government website.
A team effort
Looking back, Lisa remembers feeling exhausted at the start of the pandemic: “My mother is going through cancer treatments and the phone calls to and from the hospital to check on dad were too much for her, as well as taking care of herself and my sister, who has special needs. So I supported all the calls to and from hospital to lessen the burden on mum.”
Despite these potentially overwhelming personal challenges, Lisa was also focused on looking after her colleagues at two Barclays’ branches in Hampshire, which she manages.
“I could see that my staff’s mental health was also starting to deteriorate, so I decided to close my branch and run a wellbeing day. All the staff came in non-uniform. We did mindfulness activities and went for socially distanced walks. We also had a call with senior leaders to highlight our concerns, to alleviate the pressures and stress. The whole day really changed everybody's mindset,” she says.
Lisa then led a branch effort to support the nurses and ICU team at the Queen Alexandra, where her father was cared for, who were facing unprecedented conditions. Barclays staff made care packages and fundraised through tombolas, raffles and sponsorship. “One of my colleagues from my counter team ran 50 miles to raise money for the intensive care team,” Lisa remembers, “and every week we took things up to the hospital through Barclays. With that and senior leadership supporting me, it was incredible. I can’t fault them at all for how they cared about me while my dad was in intensive care.”
It was just incredible, after two months in a coma, that he moved when he heard my mum speak. It made us all cry. Even the nurses were welling up.
Local Manager, Barclays UK
Determined to support healthcare workers and other patients in intensive care, Lisa reached out to colleagues running a Barclays initiative donating iPads to hospitals during the pandemic. The bank gave the Queen Alexandra 20 iPads and 10 sets of Bluetooth speakers, so the iPads could be heard over the hospital machinery – allowing patients to communicate with family and friends. “When my dad first went into hospital, all I wanted to do was see him, but I couldn’t,” Lisa says, “but with the iPads, the first time they tried to wake my dad up, we were then able to see him.
“We were there – my mum and I were both on FaceTime with the senior nurse, and dad could actually hear mum’s voice. He tried to move to respond to it, and I can't even put into words how overwhelming that was. It was just incredible, after two months in a coma, that he moved when he heard my mum speak. It made us all cry. Even the nurses were welling up.”
She says the equipment is still being used by other families on the wards. “Without Barclays doing that,” says Lisa, “and giving the support to me, we wouldn't have been able to see my dad, because there were no visitors in the hospital and that was our only means of communication. It also helped us keep a really good relationship with the hospital staff. It was made possible by my dad's story, and me talking to my teams at work and senior leaders, and making it happen.”
"I was doing what I can for my family”
Her father Melvin is now home. Lisa recalls the reaction from her children and mother Heather when he walked through the front door (pictured above): “The first cuddle in months! It was a special moment lots of tears”. Melvin is now comparatively well – Lisa says he still has kidney problems but “he's walking around, and he’s actually just delivered some extra shopping here to the branch for the NHS”. Meanwhile, the branches Lisa manages are continuing to fundraise, with match funding from Barclays, and make care packages for the intensive care team.
With the award of the honour confirmed, Lisa sent a copy of the notification to her father and is hoping to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party later in the year. But she is modest about her contributions. “Me and my team didn't feel we were doing anything out of the ordinary,” she says. “We’re a very close family. My dad means a lot to me, and I was doing what I can for my family. Barclays was just incredible to support and help with that.”