Published on 24 March 2021
A domestic assistant at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate has been named a national health hero.
Tina Hughes won the UNISON Operational Support Services Worker of the Year category at the fifth Our Health Heroes Awards for her work throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 300 NHS and Social Care staff attended the virtual ceremony on Wednesday, March 23, with sector and government leaders. Tina was presented with the award by Sara Gorton, Head of Health at UNISON.
Healthcare professionals submitted more than 600 nominations across nine award categories, including the closely contested public vote for the Operational Services Support Worker of the Year title. On announcing the national winner, Sara said: “The past year has been extremely challenging for the entire NHS, but the pandemic has also reminded us that the service cannot function without the whole team.
"When the stakes have never been higher, our operational services support staff - roles often overlooked for praise or awards – have risen to the challenge. Tina is the very definition of an unsung hero, and it is fantastic that we get to shine a light on incredible individuals like her today.”
Delivered by Skills for Health, with the help of partners NHS Employers, UNISON, SFJ Awards and Bevan Brittan, the annual Our Health Heroes campaign shines a light on the extraordinary efforts of thousands of healthcare support staff who work hard behind the scenes to keep the system running.
Tina is a domestic assistant employed by 2gether Support Solutions, working on Rainbow Ward at the QEQM. It was during the early stage of the pandemic when Tina's innate desire for helping others shone through.
When a colleague’s 94-year-old grandfather had been an inpatient in the hospital for just over two weeks, and the family were unable to visit him due to the pandemic, Tina helped the family keep in contact with him during this very emotional and distressing time.
Initially, she communicated verbal messages to the man, but when he contracted COVID-19 and had not much longer to live, and when no one in the family had seen him for nearly three months, Tina went to long lengths to enable video calls for numerous members of the family, using her own phone. Tina’s support gave the family an opportunity to say a final goodbye they will never forget.
Tina’s colleague said: "I have known Tina for years, and she has always been a positive presence on the ward for staff, children and their families, but this time her personal help to me and my family has totally gone beyond all expectations. I have told Tina how much her help means to us."
Trudy Gleeson, Director of Facilities Solutions for 2gether Support Solutions said: “The whole team are delighted that Tina has been recognised by the Our Health Heroes Awards for her outstanding commitment and dedication. Tina is an excellent role model to staff across the whole organisation. However, she is very humble about what she does, and perhaps doesn’t realise the incredible positive impact she has on the people she works with, as well patients and their families.”
When she heard about her win Tina said: “I am very proud to be recognised with this award. I am humbled, as I consider myself just part of a role within the NHS. I’m overwhelmed - I believe that we are all heroes and part of the NHS family. Thank you!”
Tina fought off strong competition from two other finalists from across the UK, yet after securing the most support via a public vote, was decided the national gold winner.
John Rogers, Chief Executive at Skills for Health said: “The last twelve months have well and truly confirmed how fortunate the NHS and the UK are to have so many staff, in such a wide range of roles, dedicated to working as one healthcare team, delivering exceptional, compassionate care to millions of people every day. Operational Support Services Workers like Tina play a crucial part keeping people, systems and processes running, without whom the NHS simply could not survive. We must continue to ensure they are recognised and rewarded for their truly humbling efforts.”
For more information about all of this year’s Our Health Heroes winners and to watch the ceremony on demand, visit: https://skillsforhealth.org.uk/about-us/our-health-heroes/