When Elizabeth Cameron’s name was called out she froze for a second and stared ahead of her. Then she looked around as though she couldn’t believe her ears.
She had just been announced as one of two national winners of the inaugural Our Health Heroes Awards, held at UNISON Centre in London last night.
The awards were organised by UNISON, Skills for Health and the National Skills Academy for Health.
They were part of UNISON’s One Team for Patient Care campaign, which aims to recognise and celebrate the work of the thousands of support staff who keep our NHS running.
NHS staff across the UK nominated their colleagues, and then over 500 entries were whittled down to a total of 24 regional winners, two from each of UNISON’s 12 regions.
A public vote then decided the national winners.
The awards were split into two categories: Operational roles, for people in jobs such as porters, cleaners, receptionists and administrative officers, and clinical support roles, which are jobs such as care support workers, theatre support workers and healthcare assistants.
Elizabeth is the receptionist at Fortwilliam Day Centre in Belfast and she won the operational award.
Her colleagues nominated her because she builds strong relationships with the people with learning disabilities who use the centre, many of whom view her as a member of their extended family.
Elizabeth can often be found reading storybooks and chatting with them during her lunch breaks, and when they are having a bad day, she talks through their problems with them.
She regularly organises a host of events, including the annual Christmas dinner, which many view as the highlight of their year.
Elizabeth was in shock after she was announced as the winner and said she didn’t think she deserved it: “I’m just doing my job” she said.
Iain Scott, an emergency care assistant at Berwick ambulance station, won the national award for Clinical Support Worker of the Year.
Iain’s colleagues nominated him because he goes the extra mile for patients, calling in to see them in his spare time, helping with their shopping if they are housebound, and checking on their pets.
He makes sure the most vulnerable patients are comfortable and at ease, encouraging those who are reluctant to travel to hospital, and brings in heaters to make sure vehicles are warm in the winter.
“I’m honoured to have won the national award,” he sid. “I never thought it was going to be me. I’m really pleased to have won but I think everyone here today would have deserved it just as much as me.”
As well as the 24 regional winners, the event played host to Labour’s shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth, NHS Employers CEO Danny Mortimer, UNISON head of health Christina McAnea, UNISON’s general secretary Dave Prentis, National Skills Academy for Health director Candace Miller and Skills for Health chief executive John Rogers.
The awards were hosted by comedian Dr Phil Hammond.
As well as honouring the wonderful work NHS support staff do, the aim of the awards was also to raise the profile of them amongst the general public.
And it seems to have done a pretty good job MPs, hospitals, news organisations and more were tweeting about the awards. Check out some of the tweets below.
Getting ready for the event…
— UNISON – the union (@unisontweets) 29 November 2016
Superb speech from @DavePrentis at #OurHealthHeroes awards praising remarkable staff of the NHS. ‘One of our nation’s most valued assets’ pic.twitter.com/O4yaIdHHSY — Jonathan Ashworth MP (@JonAshworth) 29 November 2016
The national winners of the #OurHealthHeroes awards have been revealed. Congratulations Iain and Elizabeth! @skillsforhealth @unisontweets pic.twitter.com/FXhtTcj5NI — NHE Magazine (@nhenews) 29 November 2016
Congratulations Rachel! And to Samantha in the Operational Services category: https://t.co/HPmGG1FYEP @skillsforhealth #OurHealthHeroes https://t.co/CrNkwvf6Oj — Manchester Hospitals (@CMFTNHS) 29 November 2016
UNISON celebrates everyone who works in public services.
The finalists for the operational services worker of the year are:
- Eastern – Stephen Hartman, porter at Basildon Hospital, Essex
- East Midlands – Joanne Snell, administrative officer at John Coupland Hospital, Lincolnshire
- Greater London – Gifty Bobbery, ward hostess at the Royal Marsden, London
- Northern – Elizabeth Mason, cleaner at Happy House Surgery, Tyne and Wear
- Northern Ireland – Elizabeth Cameron, centre receptionist at Fortwilliam Day Service, Belfast
- North West – Samantha Meade, quality support officer at Family Nurse Partnership, Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Scotland – Paul Deans, porter supervisor at Glasgow Dental Hospital and School
- South East – Claire Mills, administrator at Medway Community Healthcare, Kent
- South West – Jeff Surmon, handyman at South Bristol Rehabilittion Centre
- Wales – Helen Rees, catering assistant at Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend
- West Midlands – Liz Perkins, secretary and admin lead at LymphCare UK, West Bromwich
- Yorkshire and Humber – Michelle Oakes, business manager at NHS Sheffield CCG
The finalists for the clinical support worker of the year are:
- Eastern – Beverly Lyford, assistant cardiac practitioner at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge
- East Midlands – Barbara Singh, maternity support worker at Nottingham University Hospitals
- Greater London – Jeanette Curtin, theatre support worker at Hillingdon Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Northern – Iain Scott, emergency care assistant at Berwick Ambulance Station, Northumberland
- Northern Ireland – Stephen Rogers, care support worker at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
- North West – Rachel Szarfenberg, assistant practitioner in head and neck surgery unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary
- Scotland – Stacy Wilson, healthcare support worker at Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley
- South East – Nicola Day, children’s therapy assistant practitioner at Medway Community Healthcare, Kent
- South West – Stephanie Crump, clinical apprentice at Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Exeter
- Wales – Jamie Alsop, support time and recover worker at Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff
- West Midlands – Amanda Lavick, therapy technician at Royal Stoke University Hospital, Staffordshire
- Yorkshire and the Humber– Tony Hudson, peer support worker at Rotherham Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, South Yorkshire