The “unsung heroes” of the Lothians health service have been honoured at a sparkling ceremony to recognise the very best of the NHS.
The Celebrating Success Awards, held at the Corn Exchange last night, gave out nine gongs, including the Evening News-backed Health Hero award, which saw members of the public make their own nominations.
Heather McVicars, who works as a research nurse in cancer clinical trials at the Western General Hospital, took the prize for going “above and beyond” in her care for Lynn Mellon.
Lynn, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and signed up to a trial which Heather helped run, said “every cancer patient should have a Heather”.
“There were times when I just wanted to give up and I could phone her or she’d phone me and we’d just blether,” she said.
“One minute, you could be sitting on ward one getting your treatment and the tears are running down your face because you don’t want to be doing it. The next thing, she’s got you killing yourself laughing.”
Heather said she loved nursing and was proud to help people going through difficult times.
She said: “To be part of somebody’s life in that moment is such a privileged place to be.”
Other inspirational health workers to be honoured at the bash included the Rapid Elderly Assessment Care Team (REACT), a mixed team of professionals who care for patients age over 75 in West Lothian, often providing an alternative to hospital admission.
Singing their praises was community geriatrician and GP Sureshini Sanders, who revealed 90 per cent of people asked said they are delighted with the service.
“They have formed a bridge between primary care and secondary care,” she said.
Julie Cassidy, public involvement co-ordinator at St John’s Hospital described the team as a “galaxy of stars”.
“Each and every one of them is a superstar in their own right and, as a team, they do make up a marvellous galaxy”.
Staff member of the year was Kelly Black, the lead medical secretary at the Western General, who is in charge of planning the medical staff rotas for the acute receiving unit of the hospital so it is covered “24 hours a day, seven days a week”.
A long-standing employee of 34 years, she was shocked to be nominated for the award, modestly claiming she was just doing her job.
“No-one had mentioned that they had nominated me, probably if they had I would have said ‘no don’t, I’m not one for being in the limelight, just leave me to get on with my job’.”
A project to raise awareness in young people and ethnic minorities about the risks of mouth cancer took the voluntary service prize.
Niall McGoldrick used his position in dentistry to raise awareness of its symptoms – which is rising rapidly in these groups.
He said: “It feels really great to have won the award and will really help us in going forward.
“It shows what we are doing is something good and worthwhile, and it’s great for the wider team to know that what we have been doing over the past year has actually been recognised, and it is doing something good.
Elsewhere Dr Kate Templeton and the Gene Xpert team were honoured for making Liberton Hospital the first in the UK to implement on-site testing for norovirus, reducing diagnosis time from 22 hours to just 90 minutes.
Leith Community Treatment Centre was recognised for introducing a more patient-friendly endoscopy, which requires no sedation or aftercare.
Jane McNulty and Dr Graham Nimmo were recognised for their “gold standard” mentoring skills in their development of a group of advanced critical care nurse practitioners.
A project helping employees develop confidence and self-esteem – the Healthy Working Lives bite size literacy and numeracy education – won the respect category while dental receptionist, Louise McFarlane, from Sighthill Dental Practice is the caring champion of the year. She was described as a “well kent” face who always has a ready smile for anyone going in for treatment.
Evening News Editor Frank O’Donnell said the winners were an example to everyone of the “dedication and professionalism” throughout staff at NHS Lothian.
“So often the focus is on cuts to the health service or complaints when things have gone wrong” he said.
“The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people who are treated by the NHS receive excellent care. These awards are a reminder of that and a chance to celebrate the wonderful staff in NHS Lothian who provide support when we need it most.”
Health bosses and attendees lined up to pay tribute to the dedication of NHS Lothian employees. Former TV weathergirl Cat Cubie was the host for the evening.
NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison said he was proud of the “inspiring and truly amazing work” taking place across health services in Lothian every day.
“Many of our staff go above and beyond their duties every day, put the values at the heart of everyday working life and demonstrate our commitment to providing high quality patient-centred care,” he said.
“The Health Hero Award is a way of saying thank you to those staff who provide standards of care NHS Lothian is so proud of.”
The roll of honour
Health Hero Award – sponsored by Edinburgh Evening News: Heather McVicars, a research nurse in cancer clinical trials at Western General Hospital
Improving Patient Access: The Outpatient Department at Leith Community Treatment Centre
Best Example of Innovation, Quality and Productivity – sponsored by the University of Edinburgh: Dr Kate Templeton and the “Gene Xpert” Team
The Voluntary Service Award: Niall McGoldrick and Orna Ni Choileain for the “Let’s Talk About Mouth Cancer” campaign
Mentor of the Year: Jane McNulty and Dr. Graham Nimmo
Staff Member of the Year – sponsored by Edinburgh Napier University: Kelly Black, Medical Secretary Team Lead, Western General Hospital
Respect for Others: The Healthy Working Lives Bite Size Literacy and Numeracy Education Project
Team of the Year – sponsored by Unison: The REACT Team
Caring Champion of the Year: Louise McFarlane, Dental Receptionist, Sighthill Dental Clinic