UK’s health heroes revealed

An ambulance worker from Berwick and a day centre receptionist from Belfast are the first ever winners of the Our Health Heroes awards, set up to celebrate the work of the thousands of support staff who keep the NHS running behind the scenes.

Iain Scott and Elizabeth Cameron received their awards today (Tuesday) at a special ceremony hosted by Skills for Health, the National Skills Academy for Health and UNISON.

Iain Scott from Berwick Ambulance Station won the national award for Clinical Support Worker of the Year, and Elizabeth Cameron from Fortwilliam Day Centre took home the top honour in the Operational Services Support Worker of the Year category.

The Our Health Heroes awards are the culmination of a campaign by the three organisations to celebrate the contribution made by the 800,000 individuals who make up the healthcare support workforce across the UK. From hospital porters to emergency care assistants, cleaners, caterers and administrative staff, their role in patient care is crucial, but often goes unnoticed.

More than 500 nominations 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.

A special honorary award was also presented in memory of Grant Callachan, a physiotherapy support worker at Arbroath Infirmary in Scotland, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Grant’s colleagues submitted a moving nomination highlighting the special difference he had made to his team, and how his example continues to inspire them. The award judges unanimously decided that his compassion and enthusiasm role should be recognised, and his honorary award was accepted by his wife, Michelle.

Iain Scott was nominated by his colleagues for always putting them and his patients first. From administration to stock control and the station social fund, Iain spends all his spare time on station doing as much as he can for colleagues.

Iain also 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 bringing in heaters to make sure vehicles are warm in the winter.

 Iain said: “I’m honoured to have won the national award, 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; so my heart goes out to each and every one of them as well.”

Elizabeth Cameron has been the welcoming face of the Fortwilliam Day Centre since it opened 30 years ago and constantly goes over and above what is expected of her daily role. She is hardworking, motivated and reliable, but it is her compassion and positivity, even during challenging times, that have really set her apart.

Elizabeth 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. She 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 said: “I’m so shocked that I’ve won. When I was told I’d even been nominated I thought it was a joke and that there must be someone out there that deserves it more than me. It’s an honour and I do really love my job; I wouldn’t have been doing it for so long if I didn’t!”

 John Rogers, chief executive, Skills for Health, said: “The dedicated individuals in our healthcare support workforce truly are the sector’s unsung heroes. They keep the NHS running from behind the scenes, and their hard work and commitment is integral to making sure patients receive the very best care possible. We are very proud at Skills for Health to be a leading voice in celebrating their contribution and value to the sector.

“We would like to extend our huge congratulations to Iain and Elizabeth, and to each of our 24 regional winners. All of them should be extremely proud of their achievements, and we hope to see this spirit of celebration continue across the sector.”

Candace Miller, director, National Skills Academy for Health, said: “The National Skills Academy for Health is dedicated to ensuring healthcare support staff can access the training they need to be effective at the job they love. We were overwhelmed by the fantastic response to this campaign that we created to give the invaluable individuals in our healthcare support workforce the recognition they deserve.

“Iain and Elizabeth are both truly deserving of winning the Our Health Heroes Award 2016, and hearing of their compassion and commitment to their colleagues and patients is truly inspiring.”

Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health, said: “Without support staff like porters, cleaners and administrative staff, the NHS would very quickly grind to a halt. Despite the huge squeeze in resources, this dedicated band of employees works tirelessly, under often incredible pressures, making sure equipment and people are in the right places, that wards are clean, and patients’ medical records are kept up to date.

“But while the public, quite rightly, often sings the praises of the nurses, midwives and doctors in the NHS, the many support staff, whose work is largely invisible, tend to be ignored. That’s why these awards are so important.”

As well as the national awards, Iain and Elizabeth have each also won training packages worth up to £2,500 for their organisation, provided by Skills for Health and the Skills Platform, along with a £250 voucher to use towards a mini-break holiday, generously donated by

 Notes to editors:
The UK health sector employs more than 2.1 million people, and two-fifths (798,600) are support staff. Almost 26,000 people work in catering, and there are 15,000 maintenance workers, making them the fifth largest group of support workers in the sector.

The awards were judged by:

  • John Rogers, Skills for Health
  • Candace Miller, The National Skills Academy for Health
  • Christina McAnea, UNISON
  • Daniel Mortimer, NHS Employers
  • Jan Bloomfield, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  • David Stevenson, National Health Executive

Skills for Health is the Sector Skills Council for all health sector employers– – NHS, independent and third sector. Since 2002 it has been working with employers to get the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time. It is the authoritative voice on skills issues for the health sector and offers proven workforce solutions and tools, with the expertise and experience to use them effectively. To find out more, please visit:

The National Skills Academy for Health (NSA Health)The support workforce makes a vital contribution to the delivery of healthcare in the UK. It makes up 40% of the workforce and delivers the majority of the day-to-day, face-to-face caring and interaction with patients. The National Skills Academy for Health (NSA Health) works with healthcare employers to help them create a qualified and transferable workforce, with every individual recognised and valued for the skills they have, and encouraged and enabled to develop the skills they want and need. We work on a not-for-profit basis to meet five objectives:

  • Improving the quality of training provision available to healthcare support workers
  • Ensuring managers know how and where they can access great training for their staff
  • Helping our employer partners make the best use of their support workforce now and in the future
  • Offering practical support to help our employer partners make the best use of workforce skills
  • Building capability to free up professionally qualified clinical staff

UNISON is one of the UK’s largest unions and Europe’s largest public service union, serving more than 1.3 million people who work in a range of public services and utilities. Its members work in the public services, for private contractors providing public services and for utility companies. Many of the NHS’ support workers belong to UNISON including healthcare assistants, hospital porters, cleaners and cooks, medical secretaries, as well as administrative and reception staff. For more information, visit

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