When Robbie Graham stepped foot inside Hillsborough Football Stadium in Sheffield back in April 1989 to support his beloved Liverpool FC in an FA Cup Semi-Final against Nottingham Forest, he had no clue that he was about to be involved in a major incident that would change his life forever.
Robbie left school and attended university where he studied Electrical Engineering – the incident at Hillsborough left him with injuries which meant he had to rebuild his life and find a new career-path. After several years, Robbie was able to restart his education, attending college to study Health & Social Care. Robbie completed his studies, but due to his injuries sustained on that horrendous day in April 1989, he was unable to go into full-time employment, so he offered his services as a volunteer and joined a disabled charity.
In 2004, Robbie joined the NHS as a volunteer within the portering team at Ormskirk District General Hospital and for the last 18 years has worked 4 days a week assisting with several portering roles during his shift including delivering the post, helping his colleagues in X-Ray with transfers and also helps in Pharmacy.
This week, Robbie found out he is the winner of the Dennis Southern Lifetime Achievement award at this years’ National MyPorter Awards – in association with NHS England.
Robbie’s boss - Logistics & Portering Manager Terry Kelly, said: “We couldn’t do without him. He is a valued member of our team and is selfless in his approach. He is the first to offer help to anyone and still enjoys his role as if it was his first day. He is a massive help within our team and his hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. Greeting everyone he comes across with his cheery disposition, he is a great example to us all and one we should all respect and admire. He is a credit to himself and the Trust and is a pleasure to have on the team.”
Taking place in central London, the National MyPorter Awards saw six awards presented to the finalists from across the country who made the judges shortlist. Judging took place back in January at London’s Home Grown Club, with the panel including NHS England’s Emma Brookes, Head of Soft FM Strategy and Operation, Philip Shelley - Senior Operational & Policy Manager - Soft FM and Adrian Eggleton - National Estates Operational Lead.
The broad range of entries showed just why the NHS porters deserve to be honoured and praised, just like the Doctors and Nurses they work with often are. Nominations such as that for eventual winner of the MyPorter – Porter of The Year Award, which went to Enfield, Chase Farm Hospital’s Victor Adjei, who suffered through personal challenges.
Father to a very unwell child who still requires 24-hour care, he spent over a year at his child’s bedside at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Battling through dire prognoses, including the recommendation that he turn off his child’s life support, Victor slept on the floor of the hospital ward before travelling into work each day. Despite doctors’ advice that he should give up work to avoid this daily struggle, he refused, stating that living in the hospital gave him a clearer appreciation of how porters and other staff can be instrumental in a patient’s outlook. Stating: “I love what I do and the unique contribution we make to our patients’ recovery. This is my why”. A passionate person, dubbed a ‘ray of sunshine’ Victor never says ‘no’ to work and always goes the extra mile, assisting on weekends and staying late where other shifts can’t be covered due to sickness or absence. Brendon Bielby of Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was shortlisted for an award after continuing work as a porter despite being diagnosed with a life-changing illness because he “loves making a difference” and “putting a smile on patients faces makes him proud to be a porter”.
Father-Daughter duo Jemma & Danny Roscoe at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust were also winners; Jemma recently attended site at 6am to assist with flooding, she moved sandbags and assisted with cleaning to minimise damage to the hospital. She always finds a solution to any issue that is presented to her, from ensuring special diet meals are delivered to the wards to fixing broken pipes at 5am. During Covid Danny Roscoe gave his personal mobile number to the wards and offered to assist with oxygen at any time of the day or night. Danny is the “go to” man on his hospital site, if there is a problem he will fix it! He frequently comes in during the festive period in his own time dressed as Santa and will sit and chat with patients in the local hospice – these examples of their great work resulted in them winning the ‘Portering Team of The Year Award’.
There are many stories which have come in through the awards nominations which showcase the humble and loveable nature of porters, like Ryan Lindsay of Barnet Hospital winner of the Leadership of The Year award, who continually goes the extra mile in his role, never asks staff to do something he’s not prepared to do himself and is often first on the scene helping during emergencies. He’s happy to take calls from staff on his days off and makes himself available to everyone in the department. Whenever staff members are struggling, Ryan regularly checks in, making sure they have all the support they need. He’s also helped team members to develop life skills, including setting up direct debits for utility bill payments, and even took a retired porter under his wing during a period of illness, taking him to hospital appointments and assisting with his recovery. – Other winners included the first ever winner of International Porter of the Year, Craig McElroy of Beaumont Hospital - Ireland, Joshua Hawkins of Royal Berkshire for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Patient Experience’ and Jack Teague of Royal Surrey County Hospital for ‘Newcomer of The Year’.
The Finalists attended a live conference during the day which saw them hear guest speakers talk to them about the future of portering, team work and portering peers who talked best practice and the need for the Government to acknowledge the expertise of portering with a recognised qualification. Guests then dined on a three-course meal before the live awards ceremony celebrated the great work done by these unsung heroes of the NHS.
Fiona Daly - National Deputy Director of Estates at NHS England said at the event: “Today’s event has been brilliant, here, recognizing all the great work that is happening across the NHS with the portering services within Estates and Facilities – during times like the pandemic, the likes of the porters, the cleaners, the security guards – they kept the NHS going. They are the beating heart of NHS and it has been amazing to be here today recognizing all of their efforts not just for during the pandemic, but now as we move towards a period of recovery”.