For the first time in its 66 year history, a high profile award for transfusion medicine has been awarded to two nurses.
Catherine Howell and Shirley Murray were presented with Oliver Memorial Award at a ceremony in London on 21 November.
The award has been given since 1948 to “uphold the principle of voluntary blood donation; give public recognition to both professional and lay people who have made an outstanding contribution to the Science, Practice or Administration of Blood Transfusion”.
Catherine Howell is currently the chief nurse for diagnostic and therapeutic services at NHS Blood and Transplant, which includes the management of therapeutic apheresis services.
In 2002, she established a new national team of transfusion liaison nurses to support clinical colleagues to improve transfusion safety.
In the following years, she was instrumental in developing guidelines for the safe and effective use of blood components, which included the Department of Health’s Better Blood Transfusion Health Service Circulars.
She also championed the need for a patient voice on the chief medical officer’s National Blood Transfusion Committee, which subsequently led to the formation of the Patient Involvement Working Group.
Working with colleagues, Ms Howells also recognised the opportunity for nurses to improve clinical practice by extending their role to prescribe blood, leading to the publication of the framework for the non-medical prescribing of blood components.
Ms Howell, who is also a member of the DH advisory committee on the safety committee of blood, tissues and organs, said: “I am very proud to receive this award which acknowledges the contribution of nursing in this specialist field of practice.
“I am delighted that the value of nurses in driving advancements in transfusion practice will now be recognised as part of the prestigious Oliver Memorial Award in the future,” she said.
Meanwhile, Shirley Murray held the post of regional haemovigilance coordinator for Northern Ireland until her retirement in 2014.
Her work included following the appropriate use of red cells in Northern Ireland audit with a detailed action plan for improvement which has led to Northern Ireland having the most restrictive red cell transfusion practice in western Europe.
She was also instrumental in Northern Ireland becoming the first UK region to have implemented competency assessment as recommended by National Patient Safety Agency, which involved leading on the training and competency assessment of over 20,000 staff.
Ms Murray said she was “delighted by the recognition this gives to the contribution many nurses make around the UK in transfusion medicine and that in future years the award will again be given to nurses”.
“In recognition of the key role nurses play across transfusion medicine, awards for nurses will now be regularly incorporated into the award cycle”
Dr Lorna Williamson, chair of the Royal College of Pathologist’s transfusion medicine specialty advisory committee, which judges the award, said: “Both Catherine and Shirley have demonstrated skill, innovation and collaborative working ultimately for the benefit of patients.
“In recognition of the key role nurses play across transfusion medicine, awards for nurses will now be regularly incorporated into the Percy Lane Oliver award cycle,” she said. “I think he would have approved.”
The Oliver Memorial Fund was established in 1944 following the death of Percy Lane Oliver who won international recognition for creating the world’s first voluntary blood donor service in 1921.
The administration of the award has been held by the Royal College of Pathologists since 2001 to ensure its future.