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Nurses honoured at awards for NHS staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds

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Six nurses have been honoured at a national awards event for NHS staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The NHS Windrush 70 Awards, held on 12 June, marked both the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the liner Empire Windrush at Tilbury in 1948 and also the upcoming 70th birthday of the NHS.

“The contributions of BME staff to the NHS over the past seven decades cannot be overstated”

Yvonne Coghill

Over 11,000 members of the public, patients and staff nominated NHS employees for the awards, which were organised and hosted by NHS England.

Among the winners was Beatrice Akyeampong, now retired, who was recognised alongside her daughter, a sexual health consultant, for her tireless work to improve health inequalities.

Dennis Singson, a community mental health nurse at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, was also given an award for his outstanding contribution to the health service at the ceremony this week.

In addition, Doreen Black, a matron for oncology, haematology and specialist palliative care at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, was recognised for her inspiring leadership.

Ms Black said: “I am extremely honoured and over the moon to win the award. It was unexpected as the other nominations were also worthy winners.

“My desire has always been to ensure the highest possible care for patients who access the healthcare,” she said.

“People from black and ethnic minority backgrounds have played a huge part in shaping the health service”

Simon Stevens

Meanwhile, Ghazala Yasin, cardiology nurse consultant at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and one of the country’s few nurse angiographers, won the rising star award.

“I would like to thank my fabulous colleagues and cardiology team at Buckinghamshire Healthcare for enabling me to achieve this,” she said.

The “unsung hero” award went to Judith Fairweather, mental health nurse and deputy director of contracting at North and East London Commissioning Support Unit.

A lifetime achievement award also went to Comfort Offorjindu, a retired nurse who worked at Whittington Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Yvonne Coghill, director of the workforce race equality standard at NHS England, said: “The contributions of black and minority ethnic staff to the NHS over the past seven decades cannot be overstated.”

“The inspirational winners of the NHS 70 Windrush Awards exemplify the very best of the NHS and all it stands for,” said Ms Coghill, who was recently mentioned in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

She was also one of three attendees at the awards ceremony who were given special recognition awards for their significant contribution to race equality in the NHS.

The other two were chief nursing office for England Jane Cummings and Lord Victor Adebowale.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Since its founding in 1948, people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds have played a huge part in shaping the health service and remain a crucial part of our NHS.”

In a recorded message played at the event, prime minister Theresa May also paid tribute to the award winners. “Without you, there is no NHS and we treasure you every bit as much as the NHS itself,” she said.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust

Beatrice Akyeampong and Vanessa Apea

Beatrice Akyeampong and her daughter Dr Vanessa Apea

NHS England

Windrush awards

Retired nurses from across England including Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester were in attendance to mark 70 years of BME contributions to the NHS and the arrival of Empire Windrush

Nurses among the award winners

  • Rising stars innovation award – Ghazala Yasin, cardiology nurse consultant and nurse angiographer, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Clinical excellence award for nursing – Dennis Singson, community mental health nurse and nurse prescriber, Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Top leadership award – Doreen Black, matron for Oncology and Haematology, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust
  • Contributing towards improving health inequalities award – Beatrice Akyeampong, retired nurse, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Unsung hero award – Judith Fairweather, mental health nurse and deputy director of contracting North and East London Commissioning Support Unit
  • NHS lifetime achievement award – Comfort Offorjindu, retired nurse, Whittington Health NHS Foundation Trust


Full list of awrd winners

Rising star innovation – sponsored by NHS Digital

This category recognises innovations which have led to improvements in healthcare; they have led to improved experience and outcomes for patients, users of services or carers. Nominations are for a a person, team or organisation where innovation is truly fostered – where good ideas are quickly identified and spread within and beyond the boundaries of the organisation.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Ghazala Yasin

Ghazala Yasin

Winner: Ghazala Yasin, cardiology nurse consultant and nurse angiographer, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Pioneering cardiology nurse consultant, Ghazala Yasin, is one of only a few nurse angiographers in the UK. She was selected from contenders from around the world to be a finalist in a prestigious international award by the European Society for Cardiology for her work in building the foundations for herself and other nurses to become nurse angiographers.


Operational service excellence – sponsored by Unison

This category was open to all staff in the NHS that are not clinically qualified. For example; a manager, receptionist, cook or cleaner, someone that inspires you and has gone over above and beyond the call of duty. The individual might be a colleague or someone in another organisation who has made a positive difference in their workplace.

Winner: Evelyn Beckley, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Evelyn is an inspirational member of staff. Over her 25 years’ service she has continuously gone beyond the call of duty to make a positive difference to service users. Evelyn is not a clinician but works closely with some of our most vulnerable mental health in-patients, improving their lives. She is well known and much loved by service users and all at the Trust.


Clinical excellence for medics  sponsored by British Medical Association

This category was open to all medics who work or have worked in the NHS. They may be a colleague or they may have treated you or a member of your family.

Winner: Dr Sanjeev Nayak, University Hospitals of North Midlands

Dr Nayak is a consultant interventional neuro-radiologist at University Hospitals of North Midlands, who introduced and pioneered mechanical thrombectomy for stroke patients in the UK. After obtaining neuro-radiology fellowship from the Neurosciences Centre at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, he did a post-fellowship training in mechanical thrombectomy in Austria. He brought back the skills he acquired in Europe and helped set up the mechanical thrombectomy service in Staffordshire that has become one of the leading centres of excellence for minimally invasive stroke thrombectomy in the UK.


Clinical excellence for nursing  sponsored by Royal College of Nursing

This category was open to all nurses, midwives and health visitors working in the NHS now or in the past. They may be a colleague or they may have cared for you or a member of your family.

Winner: Dennis Singson

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dennis Singson

Windrush award winner Dennis Singson

Dennis Singson is a Community Mental Health Nurse and Nurse Prescriber working with the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) team in Hastings.

I am nominating Denis for the significant contribution he has made to the NHS and for being such a great role model for all NHS nurses. Denis is dedicated to advancing his skills, learning and improving the care offered to patients, families and the communities we serve in East Sussex.


Clinical excellence for allied health professionals  sponsored by Care Quality Commission

Doctors and nurses are often considered to be the ones at the forefront of healthcare, however allied health professionals that work in the system have a big role to play in ensuring patients receive high quality care. Our AHPs include, Chiropodists, Physios, and radiographers to name but a few. In this category we asked you to nominate someone that works tirelessly in one of these professions to support and provide positive outcomes for patients.

Winner: Kashmira Sangle

Having gained her Physiotherapy qualification in India, Kashmira arrived in the UK in 2003 and immediately started voluntary work with the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Kashmira went on to specialise in Posture and Wheelchair Mobility in the NHS. It was in this role that she got a real understanding of the problems faced by disabled adults, children and their families. She put a process in place whereby patients who do not meet the criteria for provision of wheelchair are provided with an information pack to help them source equipment via private or charity funding, making the journey a little easier.


Top leadership – sponsored by NHS Leadership Academy

Leadership is not just about seniority or rank. Leaders can be found at any level of the organisation. They set examples of best practice and show how things should be done. An exceptional leader is someone that is able to take their team or colleagues with them; they are visionary, hardworking and well respected. They listen to and empathise with their colleagues or patients and are passionate about the work they do.

Winner: Doreen Black, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust

Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust

Doreen Black

Doreen Black

Doreen Black is currently the Matron for Oncology and Haematology in the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT). She is determined, loyal and conscientious who continually strives to improve patient care through developing staff and services. She excels at taking on challenges in departments and making subsequent improvements through inspiring the team to embrace change. She has continuously developed and nurtured the staff she has managed with many of them going onto senior roles in the trust.


Research and policy development – sponsored by Health Education England

The NHS is an evidence based organisation and many changes in the service are made as a consequence of robust evidence. People that carry out and complete research in or for the NHS are often overlooked however without them many of the necessary which enables us to improve patient care or improve services. As well as researchers the service needs its policy makers and strategists, people that are able to use research and evidence and turn it into a workable policy that delivers on healthcare and health improvements.

Winner: Dr Amos Burke Associate Director – National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network for Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia, Addenbrookes NHS Trust

Amos Burke graduated from Edinburgh University in 1991. He made an early decision to commit to a career in Paediatrics and Child Health, completing his postgraduate specialist training in the South West of England, where he worked in a wide range of Paediatric sub-specialties and localities, including hospital based General and Acute Paediatrics, Paediatric Intensive Care and Neonatal Intensive Care, in addition to community paediatrics in inner city areas, child and adolescent psychiatry and a spell as a school doctor.


BME inspirational leader – sponsored by NHS Improvement

This category is to celebrate people who – through their exceptional leadership, passion and outstanding abilities – are helping to create and deliver change.

It is much more than personal endeavours. It recognises an individual who champions the work they do, influence developments and changes within their area of work at a service, policy or educational level, inspiring people from their own sphere of influence and people outside it.

Winner: Dr Bijay Sinha, Consultant Physician, Bart’s Health NHS Trust

Dr Sinha is always curious about how to improve services and patient care, making sure that his behaviour reflects the principles and values of NHS.

He always tries to understand the underlying emotions that might affect his team, care for team members as individual, helping them focusing their energy on delivering a great service that results in care for patients. He always manages to convey a vivid and attractive picture of what everyone is working towards in a clear, consistent and honest way.

The biggest achievement of Dr Sinha is creating a team which works together toward the same targets. He promotes teamwork and a feeling of pride by valuing individuals’ contributions and ideas, this creates an atmosphere of staff engagement where desirable behaviour, such as mutual respect, compassionate care and attention to detail.


NHS lifetime achievement – sponsored by NHS England

We were looking to celebrate the work of someone still working or retired, who has dedicated much of their working life to the NHS. It may be or may have been as a medical or non-medical profession and deserves a public recognition. They may have cared for you or your family, or you may work or have worked with and they have made a profound impact on you.

Winner: Comfort Offorjindu (Whittington Health)

Whittington Health NHS Trust

Comfort Offorjindu

Comfort Offorjindu

Comfort recently retired from the NHS after more than 40 years of service. Her final role was as a sister on the maternity triage and antenatal short stay ward, a very busy and challenging area, demanding swift assessment and action to ensure the safety of mothers. But she wasn’t just known on her own unit, she was famous across the wards for her huge smile and infectious laugh and over the course of her lifetime of service often cared for several generations of the same family.

Comfort was born in Nigeria before moving to the UK where she began her service to the NHS in Birmingham before moving to work at the City of London Maternity Hospital then later joining the team at “The Whitt”.


Contributing towards improving health inequalities – sponsored by Public Health England

This category celebrated influencers, campaigners and trail blazers in organisations inside and outside of the NHS that have contributed to improving and closing the gap on health inequalities in our communities. They might work in the NHS, PHE, third or private sector; however their work will have had a positive impact and effect on health inequalities in society.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust

Beatrice and Vanessa Apea

Beatrice Akyeampong and Vanessa Apea

Winner: Beatrice Akyeampong (retired nurse, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust) and Dr Vanessa Apea (sexual health consultant Barts Health NHS Trust)

As mother and daughter Beatrice Akyeampong and Dr Vanessa Apea (nee Akyeampong) share many things in common but chief among them is their passionate work around reducing health inequality.

Beatrice came to the UK from Ghana in 1967 to study nursing at Medway Hospital. Her nursing career took her to Bishop Stortford and Chadwell Heath before settling at King George Hospital where she enjoyed a long and successful nursing career driven by the want to ensure equitable access to care for all of her patients, no matter their background.

Beatrice’s daughter Vanessa was born in The Royal London Hospital where she later trained as a specialist registrar and in 2011 was appointed as a Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV Medicine, having obtained her Master of Public Health from Harvard University as a Fulbright scholar that same year.


Unsung hero – sponsored by The Guardian

This category was for the workers without whom, the NHS would not function. Under normal circumstances, they may not be recognised and are rarely noticed as they go about their work. Individuals in this category might be catering staff, cleaners, drivers, porters, receptionists or one of the thousands of volunteers who give up their time for free. They truly make a difference.

Winner: Judith Fairweather, North and East London commissioning support unit

Judith’s parents came to the UK in 1960, skilled workers who had to settle for manual work. Their experience of discrimination influenced Judith in wanting to bring about change and equality.

Overhearing “I wouldn’t work with those nutters” at a nursing fair, she resolved to eliminate stigma for marginalised people. She joined the NHS in 1986, qualifying as a nurse in 1990. Judith specialised in mental health, latterly with South West London and St George’s.

There, she led in calling for action to help BME staff break through the glass ceiling, working with the Trust’s Chair. She also set up a BME forum to hear stories from different cultures, develop shared understanding and build relationships.

She took commissioners and directors on a journey of listening to patients and over 100 faith groups and voluntary organisations to shape services that met local needs.

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