Woman holding award

Resourceful Leadership During Pandemic nets Healthcare Hero NHS Award

As NHS judges sat down at London’s Home Grown Club in January to discuss entries for the National MyCleaning Awards, one candidates examples of inspiring and resourceful leadership sprung from the page, which led to Carol Birch of County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust winning the aptly named ‘Leadership of The Year’ award.

During the pandemic staff shortages due to isolation periods and lack of available PPE were two key areas each and every hospital across the country were struggling to deal with, which were combatted at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust by the brilliant leftfield thinking of Carol.

Armed with just her own ideas, Carol thought about how she could cover the loss of sick and/or isolating staff to avoid shortages when she decided to reach out to local hotels and other elements of the hospitality sector where people were in danger of losing their jobs. Carol turned this situation into a win/win for all – she maintained her staffing levels and people who were at risk of losing their jobs through no fault of their own were able to remain in employment.

Another example of the leadership shown by Carol is how she was able to supply PPE for her staff with a limited supply available. To help support the challenges regarding PPE, Carol led on having a disposable gown made up from fabric normally used to wrap surgical instruments for the decontamination process. Once the gown was tested and approved by infection control and the clinical staff were happy with the product, Carol worked with local community sewing groups who produced thousands of gowns for the Trust, which played a part in ensuring the Trust never ran short of disposable gowns.

Carol, who has worked within the NHS for the last 39 years, progressing from a frontline NHS worker in facilities services through to her current position as the Associate Director of Facilities at Synchronicity Care Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust).

At The National MyCleaning Awards live ceremony, Carol found out this week that she is the winner of the Leadership of the Year award (sponsored by Medirest).

Emma Brookes of NHS England said at the event: “I think it’s incredibly important to showcase the work that people are doing to go above and beyond. It’s not just about ‘we show up today, we clean and we go home’ many of these people and their stories today highlight how incredible they are in doing not just what they’re paid to do, but also enjoying it – and they’re a really important part of patient care and recovery”.

Taking place in central London, the National MyCleaning Awards saw six awards presented to the finalists from across the country who made the judges shortlist. Judging took place 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.
Award show view
The entries for the awards really impressed the judges, showing a broad range of examples of just why Healthcare Cleaning teams, Domestics and Healthcare Auditors are fully deserving of the praise they receive at these awards. Nominations such as that for subsequent winner of the MyCleaning – Domestic of The Year Award (sponsored by GT Cleaning Machines), which went to Nottinghamshire’s Geraldine Needham, who received praise from no less than 9 different colleagues, from clinical lead to the psychiatric nurse and medical secretary.

Geraldine typifies the hardworking Healthcare Domestics, often going above and beyond to ensure all areas of the hospital are spotless. She selflessly often works alone in the early hours to help avoid disrupting scheduled appointments, leaving areas sparkling clean and hazard free, safe for clinical staff and patients who enter the building for treatment. She was also praised in her nomination for how she tackled the pandemic. Geraldine kept infection control in the forefront of everybody’s mind and her vigilance ensured that there was never a time when the hospital was exposed to the risk of infection due to poor hygiene measures. As a result, they were not flattened by staff infection or illness and were able to continue offering care to their patients. Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner, Paula Cheong said of her: “She is one of the most dedicated people I have worked with irrespective of grade, position or profession. She does her work without complaint and motivates the rest of us to do the same.”

Susan Robason was another of those triumphant, winning the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ (sponsored by Numatic), having worked her way up the domestic ladder, now in her first senior role as Acting Head of Domestic & Linen Services. Susan, a tireless advocate for domestic teams, she works hard to ensure they are integrated into the ward teams and are given the credit they deserve for their hard work, helping breakdown many long established barriers.

She goes out of her way to support staff, coming in to work out of hours to meet with evening, nights and weekend staff, to ensure they all feel part of the team. Her colleagues say “It is no coincidence that the overall staff morale has improved significantly in the short period of time Susan has taken on this senior role.”

There are many stories like these which have come in through the awards nominations which showcase why the awards are necessary, too many to mention, but each and every one deserving of praise – Other award winners included: Callum Lane at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust who won ‘Newcomer of the Year Award’ (sponsored by Dettol Pro Solutions), Somerset Community at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust who won ‘Healthcare Cleaning Team of The Year’ (sponsored by GT Cleaning Machines) and Tracy Boswell at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust who won the ‘MyAudit – Auditor of the Year Award’,

The Finalists attended a live conference during the day which saw them hear guest speakers talk to them about the future of cleaning and the cleaning standards and how people are lobbying for more recognition for Healthcare Cleaners. 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.

NHS England’s Phil Shelley said: “It’s important that we get a message across that cleaning is a science, but also that cleaning as a role is respected at all levels. We know that clean environments is what the NHS needs – so everybody has an important role to play and working together shows that real partnership”.

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