And the winner is... Meet the RCN Nurse of the Year and all our award category winners

Taurai Matare receives top accolade at the RCNi Nurse Awards for her work transforming her unit’s care pathways and workforce


RCN Nurse of the Year 2019 Taurai Matare. Picture: Tim George

Taurai Matare has been named RCN Nurse of the Year 2019 for her innovative work in transforming her unit, its care pathways and workforce over 14 years.

The matron for ophthalmology at Whipps Cross University Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, received the accolade at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2019 awards in London on Wednesday 3 July.

A ‘gold star’ service

Ms Matare, an advanced nurse practitioner, was recognised in part for her role in achieving a zero nurse vacancy rate in eye theatres at the hospital, as well as zero complaints in 2018.

The Care Quality Commission has described the theatres as the ‘gold star’ of Whipps Cross. In addition, 80% of the trust’s ophthalmology staff would recommend the unit as a place to work.

Read how Taurai Matare transformed her department

Ms Matare was named as the overall winner, having earlier won the Leadership category at the awards.

On being named RCN Nurse of the Year, Ms Matare said: ‘I have been a nurse for over 25 years, and to be recognised in this way for me is the pinnacle of my career. 

I'm going to continue doing what I do best in making sure that I promote nursing to nursing students. If you are dedicated it pays, if you are dedicated the sky is the limit for you. If you are committed to nursing and you want to develop you can achieve your goal.'

Game of Thrones star and RCN ambassador Emilia Clarke gave a moving keynote speech at the awards.

She spoke of the nursing care she received after two brain haemorrhages.

‘Not only did you help bring me into this world, but you prevented me from leaving it too soon,’ she said. 

Closing her speech, Ms Clarke thanked nurses on behalf of all those who need them.

‘I speak on behalf of everyone who has ever known pain, ever known loss, ever known the need to get back to life,’ she said. 

‘You are there with us, and we thank you.’

The other category award winners (and sponsors) are:

Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award

Winners – (pictured, from left) Alice Waddington, Eve Hesketh and Emily Kavanagh, Edge Hill University

Ms Hesketh said: ‘This is the platform we need for people with learning disabilities, and any other person that doesn’t have verbal communication.

A massive thank you to RCNi for helping us raise awareness of our message.’


Cancer Nursing Award

Winner – Amy Dugdale, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

‘I was flabbergasted that my consultant had put me forward for the award, so to win is such an honour.

‘It’s my wish to see what I do happening in every hospital in the country.’

Child Health Award

Winner – Joanna Broderick, Children and Family Health Devon

‘Winning consolidates and confirms everything I have done in the last four years.

‘It inspires and gives hope to nurses to push innovations forward. Don't take knockbacks, keep pushing.’

Commitment to Carers Award

Winner – Dementia carers’ support service, represented by Sally Kitchin (pictured) and Fe Franklin, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

‘I want to see our service for carers for people with dementia replicated nationally.

‘Our carers have skills and expertise- we are sitting on a goldmine.’

Community and General Practice Nursing Award

Winner – Janine McKnight-Cowan, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

‘I saved the best till last. This is my legacy. I had an unbelievable career. I dug deep and challenged for the women I cared for.

‘Five guide is so simple. For every lady who has s caesarean this has to be communicated. It is transferable for all health visitors, midwives and others. I now want to get this out as a national standard.’

Emergency Nursing Award

Winner – Emergency department end of life team, represented by Angela Harris (pictured), Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

‘It’s such an achievement for each and every member of the team involved - nurses, doctors, support workers, the whole multidisciplinary team who together treat end of life patients like VIPs.'

Excellence in Cancer Research Award

Winner – Rachel Taylor (pictured, second from right, with her team), University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

‘The reason this award is so important is that this week is sarcoma awareness week and this project is funded by Sarcoma UK.

‘It is a rare cancer that is under-researched and under-resourced. This award is for nurses.’

Healthcare Assistant Award

Winner – Lisa Morgan, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

‘I'm very honoured to be here as a healthcare assistant.

‘People think that you have to be a qualified nurse to change practice and you don't if you are passionate about something.'

Innovations in Your Specialty Award

Winner – Neomi Bennett, Neo-Innovations UK

‘It means so much to me because I have been working on the project for so long, so to have it acknowledged by RCNi is absolutely wonderful. 

‘It’s like the pinnacle of the work I have been doing on it and great to set an example to other nurses that we can make changes.’

Leadership Award

Winner – Taurai Matare, Barts Health NHS Trust

‘Sometimes the priority is not for outpatient based services, but this award means that we have achieved.’


Learning Disability Nursing Award

Winner – Learning disability team, represented by Ged Jennings and Shaun Lever, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust

‘We’re proud to win, proud to be here and proud to be nurses.

‘The role of learning disability nursing has changed so much.

‘It’s becoming more diverse and moving into places learning disability nurses have never been before. Making a difference to the people of Liverpool is profound.’

Mental Health Nursing Award

Winner – Rachel Luby, East London NHS Foundation Trust

‘I am totally overwhelmed, to the extent I had to go upstairs to get some air. The quality of the other contenders, I had no expectation to walk away with the award, or to even be among them.’

Nursing Older People Award

Winner – Lindsay Rees, Colten Care

‘I am so excited and proud to win this prestigious award. As a nurse who left the NHS 12 years ago and works in the private sector in nursing homes, I am flying the flag for nursing home nurses. 

‘We are showing the NHS how it is done.’

Patient’s Choice Award

Winner – Sarah Everett, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

‘I'm so delighted. I didn't expect it at all. Such an honour to be nominated by a patient. It shocked me how many people voted for me.’

Read Sarah Everett's comment piece here

Team of the Year Award

Winner – Community enhancing recovery team, represented by Debbie Creaser, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust

‘It’s unbelievable to win. We have been nominated for a few awards and we have always been the bridesmaids - and tonight to have picked up this award at this prestigious event is so beyond words.’

Wound Prevention and Treatment Award

Winner – Emma Williamson, Angel Hill Surgery, Suffolk

‘We were up against some big trusts and great contenders who had also done fantastic work. 

‘This feels like a bit of a win for primary care, not just me.’

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