Experts looking out for the wellbeing of NHS staff to receive honours

Tess de la Mare, PA
·4-min read

Two experts who predicted the toll of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of frontline staff have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

Professor Greta Westwood, chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF), returned to frontline care at the start of the pandemic.

She immediately recognised the need for interventions for medical professionals working long hours in unprecedented circumstances.

With her team at the FNF, she set up the Nightingale Frontline: Leadership Support Service to provide a safe space for nurses to raise concerns about leadership and discuss their fears about the situation.

More than 1,500 nurses and midwives have reached out to the service for support and, according to the FNF, demand continues to grow as the crisis deepens.

Professor Greta Westwood
Professor Greta Westwood returned to frontline nursing during the pandemic (FNF/PA)

After being named a CBE, Prof Westwood said: “I am overwhelmed, honoured and very humbled to be recognised in this way.

“I have been a registered nurse for 37 years and every day I wear that badge of honour with pride.

“Everything I have done and continue to do is always to develop the nursing and midwifery workforce to improve the care we give.

“I would like to recognise and thank my team and trustees in supporting my vision.”

She added: “I have been inspired by some amazing nursing leaders and I hope my award will help to inspire others.

“This award means so much to me in this year, following the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale.”

Professor Wendy Burn
Prof Wendy Burn spoke up for mental health practitioners during the pandemic (RCPsychs/PA)

Professor Wendy Burn, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), highlighted the fact that all healthcare staff, including mental health staff, were in dire need of personal protective equipment.

She warned the Government that the wave of Covid-19 that swept through elderly care homes could be replicated in residential mental health facilities if steps were not taken.

Following the announcement she had been made a CBE, Dr Adrian James, president of RCPsychs, said: ”The honour is richly deserved.

“Wendy’s contribution to the College has been immense.”

He added: “She led the College’s response to Covid-19 and ensured there was support for our members from day one.

“She is a great example of how empathy and commitment can bring great change to the way we provide treatment and care.”

Elsewhere Jackie Shears, programme director of NHS Digital, was awarded an OBE for services to patient care.

As well as her work within the health services IT division, she also used a little music therapy to help intensive care unit (ICU) staff across the country through the pandemic, bagging them a hit single in the process.

Ms Shears was the creative brain behind the rewording of the Police’s Every Breath You Take sung by the ICU Liberty Singers, a 100-strong choir made up of intensive care staff from across the NHS.

NHS Spitfire
The NHS Spitfire Project raised £130,000 for charity (Lewis Romain/PA)

The money raised from the single went towards supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Shears said: “I really wanted to recognise that, while we are all frustrated by the restrictions, ICU staff have had minimal respite since March.

“(They) have continued to provide high levels of care and professionalism, identifying treatments and working out how best to care for incredibly unwell people.”

While we were on our doorsteps clapping for carers, one couple took their appreciation for carers sky high with the NHS Spitfire Project.

In the battle to boost morale, John Romain took to the skies every Thursday during the weekly Clap for Carers with the words Thank U NHS emblazoned on his restored Spitfire.

He and his wife Amanda, based in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, painstakingly decorated the aircraft with the names names of community heroes in exchange for donations for NHS Charities Together, raising over £130,000.

The couple were both named MBEs for services to charity and to aircraft restoration.

After receiving a Points of Light award earlier in the year, the couple said: “We hoped it would lift the community spirit and it did, the response was utterly overwhelming.”

They added: “Having now flown over hundreds of NHS hospitals and with thousands of names hand-written onto the Spitfire, we are humbled to have been able to give those in our communities a way of saying a simple thank you.”