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England’s chief nurse congratulates NHS Parliamentary Awards winners

Dame Ruth May

3 min read

This year, I had the honour of chairing our national judging panel for the NHS Parliamentary Awards. Already a highlight in our annual calendar, this year was particularly notable as it formed part of how we marked the 75th anniversary of the NHS.

Staff and volunteers are central to the NHS and have been throughout its 75-year history. Seeing a record-breaking number of nominations from MPs – nearly 750 from more than half of MPs representing constituencies in England – was truly heart-warming, and a real demonstration of how valued NHS staff are by parliamentarians.  

I was impressed by the sheer variety of activity MPs chose to highlight in their nominations, making the job of the judging panel harder than ever. It’s crucial we recognise staff and volunteers, and I was particularly proud that we introduced the Volunteer Award this year, which recognises those doing everything from supporting patients who are anxious or alone, to helping provide life-saving support after a cardiac arrest. 

A real highlight for me was presenting the Nursing and Midwifery Award. As chief nursing officer for England, I see how our nurses, midwives and care staff deliver excellent care for patients day in, day out. In what was a very competitive category, I was delighted to name Vicki Stevenson-Hornby as the winner. A pancreas specialist nurse at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, Vicki has helped drive a reduction in the time from referral for pancreatic cancer to confirmed diagnosis from an average of 42 days to 22 days. The importance of this to patients and their families cannot be overstated. 

The awards remind us that the NHS is nothing without its people. That is why I was so pleased NHS England published the first ever comprehensive NHS Long Term Workforce Plan in June. This plan isn’t just about increasing the number of staff working in the health service; it is also about working differently to maximise the benefit of new technology, therapies and treatment.  

Crucially, the plan focuses on retention by creating greater flexibility in roles and supporting the wellbeing of our staff. Of course, as technology and treatments develop in the coming years, the staffing needs of the NHS will change. That is why we have committed to updating the plan regularly. 

As we mark the NHS’s 75th anniversary, we are taking this chance to reflect on some of the ways the health service has evolved and adapted to meet the changing needs of each generation. The NHS has delivered huge medical advances over the years and our dedicated staff show no signs of that stopping in the months and years to come.  

From Britain’s first kidney transplant in 1960, to Europe’s first liver transplant in 1968 (performed at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge), to more recent advancements such as the first new treatment for sickle cell disease in more than two decades, and the 100th cancer drug being fast-tracked to patients through the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund. All these innovations have only been possible because of our national model of healthcare.  

Looking ahead, I’m already anticipating another excellent set of nominations in 2024 and would strongly encourage all MPs to nominate outstanding NHS staff or volunteers in their communities – who are caring for us all throughout our entire lives.

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