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David Foster: 'Nurses and midwives should suggest colleagues for honours'


There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from seeing your nominee listed in the Queen’s new year and birthday honours, says David Foster

According to Dame Christine Beasley, former chief nursing officer for England, “nothing prepares you for opening a letter and learning that the Queen is considering awarding you an honour.” For Sheena Byrom, awarded an OBE for services to midwifery, the reaction was one of delighted disbelief. “I was absolutely shocked when I was contacted with news that I was to receive an honour,” she says.

“Thank you” and “well done” are words we all like to hear. There is one way we can nationally applaud the extraordinary achievements of nurses and midwives - by nominating them for awards in the Queen’s new year and birthday honours lists.
The honours system recognises people who have given distinguished service and made a difference in their field at local, regional or national level. Although there are exceptional nurses and midwives in all sorts of areas, we do not see as many of them on the honours lists as we would like.

Nominating a person, does take a bit of effort, but there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from seeing your nominee listed. It is important to bear in mind your nominee’s exemplary efforts and achievements rather than rehearse their CV - length of service alone is not enough. A well-presented nomination is essential to draw out the qualities of your candidate.
Nursing and midwifery nominations are considered by an expert committee before the list is put forward to the prime minister who then presents it to the Queen.

The decision to recommend an honour will depend on the nominee’s impact and achievements. There should be compelling evidence on how a person has, for example:

  • Made a breakthrough;
  • Had an outstanding impact on patients or the public;
  • Been a leader in the field;
  • Taken on a non-traditional role;
  • Shown outstanding career achievements;
  • Shown outstanding achievements in voluntary service;
  • Shown innovative or creative practice in making a difference.

The process is confidential - you must not tell your nominee. It usually takes 12-18 months, sometimes longer.

Many of those who receive an honour acknowledge others who helped them. For Dame Elizabeth Fradd, her delight in her new year honour was enhanced when she received a phone call from a learning disability nurse, “whom I did not know but lives in my village. She said her learning disability service was being reorganised with a possible loss of jobs. She said: ‘Your honour has inspired us. We are proud that nurses are recognised in this way and have, as a result, renewed courage to face the future’.”

Similarly, Ms Byrom recognises that her award “in some way, represents the work of many, and that will never be forgotten”.
For Ann Johnson MBE, a former nurse with Alzheimer’s disease, her honour has reinforced her determination to raise the profile of her condition. “This will encourage me in my continuing efforts to dispel the stigma of dementia,” she says.

Dame Christine has had two “exciting, humbling and unforgettable” days at Buckingham Palace having received a CBE and DBE. She is now a member of the health honours committee. I will leave the final words to her: “Nurses and midwives are at the centre of many healthcare services and I want to make sure the very best are put forward. To do that we need your help to find varied applicants. If you know anyone who is not only doing a great job but also makes an additional contribution to their community, or is contributing to nursing or healthcare nationally or internationally, we want to hear from you.”


David Foster is deputy director of nursing, Department of Health



Readers' comments (6)

  • The problem with awards and honours is they have a tendency, with very few exceptions, to go to those most adept at brown-nosing and who have actually achieved very little. Beasley is a case in point. She was the leader of the nurses of England during the days of mid staffs and did NOTHING to further the cause of nurses. In fact, during her tenure, the post of CNO was diminished and, resultantly, the influence of nurses in advising government was further reduced. She cannot possibly have been honoured for any contribution to Nursing. One can only conclude that being a winner of the "Who Ate All The Pies" competition is a big deal in government circles and chose to award accordingly.

    Now if we are talking about awards for real nurses who make a real contribution, day in and day out, then I would nominate every member of my team. Heroes all.

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  • God forbid Cummings should get an award. Unless it is for services to poodles.

    Anyway, most nurses I know already "make an outstanding impact on their patients and the public."

    But they are just taken for granted and blamed for the downfall of the NHS when that should really be laid at the feet of this government.

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  • The honours system is a load of tosh. It usually an old boys network, totally about who you know rather than what you do. Greedy bankers who rip off the country are made Sir's. It a totally outdated system and should be abolished. I would urge nurses to ignore it. "Dame Christine Beasley", that's a laugh. what has she done to deserve her title. No doubt Jane Cummings will be made Dame purely for sucking up to Jeremy Hunt and being a total government puppet. Hilarious.

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  • "The honours system recognises people who have given distinguished service and made a difference in their field at local, regional or national level". That funny, Mr Foster is obviously a bit of a comedian. This could not be further from the truth. If you donate enough money to the Conservative party, you are well on your way to getting a knighhood or equivalent.

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  • I’ve got a spiffing idea; let’s think up a new nursing strategy to launch my career. Let’s thinks of words beginning in the letters ABC.
    No, on second thoughts let’s just have one of those letters. Now which one will it be, lets see… eeny, meeny, miny – “ C” it is then.
    Now let’s think of how many words we can come up with beginning with the letter C. There’s; Care, Compassion, Courage, Communication, Commitment, Competence. I think that will be enough. Spiffing, job well done. Well call it Compassion in Practice or the six C’s for short.
    Jolly hockey sticks; let’s have a conference to launch it. That nice Mr. Hunt will be impressed, with a bit of luck he will recommend me for a Damehood.
    Onwards and upwards.

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  • in some way, represents the work of many, and that will never be forgotten.

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