The ‘horrifying’ experience of a mother attending what should have been a routine hospital appointment with her son, who had multiple learning disabilities, made Holly Phillips determined to ensure better facilities at her local hospitals.

Holly Phillips.  Picture credit: John Houlihan

‘Their story of struggle, emotionally and physically, in accessing just a toilet without necessary equipment left me shocked that this is a barrier to health,’ says Holly, a third-year learning disability nursing student at the University of Cumbria.

After hearing about Changing Places, the campaign for fully accessible toilet facilities, Holly and her colleague Heather Maw decided to campaign for such a facility at their hospital.

They set about collecting the ‘patient voice’ through structured questionnaires, focus groups and meetings.

The students met many inspirational people during this exercise. They condensed their findings into a presentation for the equality of access to healthcare group at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

A month later they received confirmation that a Changing Places facility will be installed in all the trust’s hospitals.

Holly has already started two more campaigns, and hopes facilities will be installed in the Lake District to help make trips to the country accessible.

Holly Phillips.  Picture credit: John Houlihan

Holly is chair of the student quality ambassadors group at the university, a Health Education North West initiative to champion and highlight good nursing practice. She is also a peer mentor for learning disability nursing students and international students entering their first year at university.

Holly’s efforts have won her a place on the shortlist of the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award category of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2016.

The award, supported by the RCN, recognises student nurses whose nursing practice, perceptions or interactions with patients have changed as a result of an incident or experience during training.

Holly says: ‘I am proud of my achievements and extremely grateful for all the support and encouragement I have received. It is a privilege to be standing next to so many fabulous and inspirational finalists and hope each of our achievements will go on to inspire others to take on their own challenges during their studies.’

About the sponsor

Royal College of Nursing


In 2016 the Royal College of Nursing celebrates a centenary as the voice of the profession. From its original educational and professional objectives, the college has grown into the largest professional union for nursing with more than 430,000 members including nurses, midwives, healthcare support workers and students. It continues to campaign across the UK and internationally, influencing policy and practice for the benefit of nursing staff and their patients. Sponsoring the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award tonight is just part of the college’s commitment to supporting nursing excellence for 100 years more.

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