The Only National Awards For Non-Medical / Non-Clinical NHS Staff & Volunteers

A wonderful visit to meet two wonderful ladies!

13th May 2019

On Friday, 9th May the UHA team made a visit to Calderdale And Huddersfield NHS Trust to meet with Helen Barker, their Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Helen’s PA, Sue Laycock.  Sue was nominated by Helen and was shortlisted for Leader of the Year, Admin & Clerical by a panel of 18 judges from NHS England, NHS Trusts, NHS Technical Experts and previous winners.   

As Helen said during our visit, “Sue is one of the hardest working and dedicated people I know. She is an amazing PA who has brought about changes and improvements and brought people together for the good of the Trust and her colleagues. She shows initiative constantly and goes about her work in a sensitive way that always secures the desired results.” 

Calderdale and Huddersfield Entrance

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust

Unfortunately, Sue did not win the award that she was shortlisted for this year, as it went to Carl Ramsdale for his wonderful work with a young, autistic man called Seb and details of Carl’s work can be found HERE. Regardless of not winning on this occassion Sue said that her night was made more special by her husband who, up until they both attended the Unsung Hero Awards, had really no idea what Sue did on a daily basis – now he does, and he’s impressed! 

Helen also said she would be lost without Sue, as the role of COO at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust is very challenging being based on two sites, which despite being only 3 miles apart, are separated by the very busy M62. Most days, Helen is found travelling between both sites and Sue has her work cut out organising everything “behind the scenes”. 

Helen and Sue

Helen Barker, Don Tomlinson and Sue Laycock

We were made extremely welcome on the visit and Helen described how impressed she was to find an awards ceremony especially tailored for the non-medical staff and volunteers of the NHS. Despite non-medical staff making up nearly 50% of NHS employees, until now there has never really been anything on a national scale showcasing the amazing work done by non-medical staff like Sue and her colleagues in Helen’s department. 

One thing Helen thought was particularly special was that when she nominated Sue via the UHA portal Sue then received a lovely email saying she had been nominated for an award.  In Helen’s words “this was so unusual, and I hadn’t seen this before with other awards. It meant a lot to me to know that Sue had received an email acknowledging that she was up for an award.” 

The Unsung Hero Awards is different in many little ways, such as highlighted above, but also in ways such as how every nominee receives a personalised certificate, and all winners receive personalised e-mail banners and pin badges, amongst other things. We also encourage every nominee to have their photo taken with their nomination certificate so we can circulate them via the UHA social media platforms. Another small way of recognising them for who they are – Unsung Heroes! 

The Unsung Hero Awards recognises all non-medical staff and volunteers of the NHS

The Unsung Hero Awards recognises all non-medical staff and volunteers of the NHS

We also made the point that the Awarda are growing in support each year by the attendance of some of the most senior members of the NHS, including CEO’s and members of NHS England.  On the night you found porters and other ancillary staff sitting next to the CEO of their Trust – something that doesn’t happen every day. However, Helen was quick to point out that at Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Trust it happens every Monday! Their CEO, Owen Williams always stops off early on his way into work to have a bacon butty and a mug of tea with the porters! 

As Helen said, “this is the essence of us all working together at Calderdale & Huddersfield”, everyone buys in, from the top down, to create one whole team of medical and non-medical staff. At Calderdale & Huddersfield they don’t believe in the phrase “front line” relating only to the medical staff, they believe everyone is on the front line – all working together with the common goal of continuing to improve patient care and better patient outcomes.   

The goal - all NHS staff working together to improve patient outcomes

The goal – all NHS staff working together to improve patient outcomes 

One young lady who knows how important this is works as a cleaner on the wards and said to Sue recently “my job is one of the most important in the hospital, because if I don’t clean my wards properly then the Care Quality Commission (CQC) could shut us down! Examples like the above embodies why we have an awards ceremony held each year in Manchester specifically to highlight the amazing work done by that young cleaner and many of her colleagues. 

Finally we turned to “leadership” and when we asked Helen to say more on the subject she explained that the NHS is now on a mission to have a “leader on every seat” regardless of rank – meaning from the lowest to the highest in the Trust everyone is being encouraged to act more as leaders than followers. 

Karl Robers, far left, Senior Programme Lead at the NHS Leadership Academy and avid supporter of the UHA

Karl Robers, far left, Senior Programme Lead at the NHS Leadership Academy and avid supporter of the UHA

The NHS Leadership Academy sums it up perfectly:

Healthcare systems need good leadership to deliver continuous improvements to the health and care of patients and populations. Leadership can be found throughout organisations; an inclusive process, not based around hierarchies or positions. And, the good news is that leadership can be learned – it is never too early to start.” 

I wrote earlier that the Unsung Hero Awards is different in many little ways and another way is that we listen to our audiences and take note of important trends and changes within our NHS. For this reason we are proud to announce a dedicated Leadership award for UHA2020. So, when nominations open in early to mid-August make sure you are ready to nominate your leaders wherever they are and whatever they are doing. 

For more information about the 2019 event and to get the latest news on UHA2020 please visit (you can also see the video of the night and if you wish can download an electronic version of the UHA2019 attendee brochure from the home page). 

Don Tomlinson

Written by Don Tomlinson

Managing Director – max20 and Founder of the Unsung Hero Awards