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Influential nurse union leader given education honour

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A leading union figure has been given an honorary doctorate by Bournemouth University for her role in influencing national health policy.

Unison’s head of nursing and professional services, Gail Adams, received an honorary doctorate of education at a graduation ceremony in Bournemouth on Friday.

“I have upset a few ministers along the way but they will get over it because people come before politics”

Gail Adams

She was praised for her work promoting equal opportunities for healthcare staff and campaigning for better investment in training opportunities.

Ms Adams, a theatre nurse by background, has been Unison’s head of nursing for 14 years and in 2016 it was announced she was being promoted to lead the union’s professional services, which represents Unison members in fitness to practise cases.

She said she was “deeply honoured” to receive the honorary doctorate and paid tribute to friends and family, as well as Unison colleagues who had given her “the freedom to say what needed to be said”.

“I have a reputation for speaking from the heart, which has sometimes gotten me into trouble,” said Ms Adams. “Whilst education and compassion are key to our profession, if my award says anything it’s that a woman from a council estate with no degree does not define who you become.

“I have overcome many things in my career, from my suspension due to my psoriasis as a student, which nearly scuppered my career before it started, to my determination to continue in the job I loved when the first MRSA case in the NHS turned out to be that of a patient with psoriasis and panic started again,” she said.

“Gail has been influential in the shaping of healthcare policy, affecting the rights and practices of frontline teams”

Dr Katherine Curtis

“I have upset a few ministers along the way but they will get over it because people come before politics. It seems fitting, therefore, that the next phase of my life is going back to representing nurses and midwives and supporting them when they are in their greatest need,” she added.

Dr Katherine Curtis, head of the department of nursing and clinical sciences at the university, presented Ms Adams with her award.

“Since moving from nursing to a full-time roll with Unison, Gail has been influential in the shaping of healthcare policy, affecting the rights and practices of frontline teams,” said Dr Curtis.

“Throughout her career, she has promoted equality of opportunity, viewing hospital cleaners as vital parts of infection control and domestic staff as central to the patient experience. This attitude has led her to campaign for greater investment in training for staff at all grades,” she added.

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