Award winners named: nurses recognised for improving patient care

RCN Nurse of the Year and 13 other award winners announced at ceremony in London, honoured for their pioneering projects and inspiring dedication to better care

Our 2022 RCN Nursing Awards winners Picture: Barney Newman

Meet the winners of the RCN Nursing Awards 2022, whose pioneering projects have improved patient care and services.

The recipients of the prestigious awards were revealed at an event for finalists today at RCN headquarters in London.

Queen’s Nurse Alison Bunce won the Leadership award category before being announced as the RCN Nurse of the Year. Ms Bunce, who was selected from all nominees as the overall winner, won praise for the ambition and imagination she showed in setting up a service to support people in her community during times of crisis or increased need.

Improving services and patients’ lives

Other award winners included nursing student David Richens, who overcame an opioid addiction to set up a recovery service as he completes a nursing degree at Bournemouth University, and an advanced nurse practitioner who launched the first nurse-led specialised headache centre in Europe.

The work of all the winners and finalists demonstrate their motivation to improve services and the lives of patients and service users.

Here is a round-up of our winners.

RCN Nurse of the Year, and Leadership award

Alison Bunce, RCN Nurse of the Year 2022
Alison Bunce, RCN Nurse of the Year 2022 Picture: Lesley Martin

Alison Bunce, Compassionate Inverclyde, Ardgowan Hospice

Queen’s Nurse Alison Bunce set up and leads Compassionate Inverclyde, a self-organising collaboration of people in the community, faith groups, voluntary bodies and businesses working alongside healthcare professionals to support people in crisis or experiencing social isolation, bereavement or difficult circumstances.

Compassionate Inverclyde’s activities vary, but all foster kindness and compassion in the community, with support tailored to individual need. Companions sit with people who would otherwise be alone in their final hours of life; new mothers are befriended and supported with breastfeeding if they wish; volunteers offer toiletries and night clothes to people admitted to hospital in an emergency, and fill and deliver ‘back home boxes’ to those who live alone and are discharged home.

‘Every day to be a role model to other nurses and the people I work alongside who want to make a difference’

Alison Bunce, RCN Nurse of the Year 2022

Ms Bunce said the RCN Nurse of the Year accolade and Leadership award ‘endorse nurses being in positions that are creative and innovative’.

‘I’ve been proud to be a nurse since I started my training in 1981 and I try every day to be a role model to other nurses and the people I work alongside who want to make a difference.’

Awards judging panel chair Joanne Bosanquet, chief executive of the Foundation for Nursing Studies, said: ‘Ms Bunce demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of her community, collaborated with it and built up its assets.

‘Nurses are closest to their communities and should be leading in this space.

'She has taken full advantage of every opportunity and she’s a fantastic role model for nurses.’

Leadership award sponsored by LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare

Child Health award

Robert Cole, Child Health Award winner
Robert Cole

Robert Cole and Kevin Ramjeet, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust

Head of nursing for children and young people Robert Cole and head of nursing for mental health Kevin Ramjeet have significantly improved the mental healthcare pathway for children and young people at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust district hospital.

The pair identified a surge in the number of children presenting with mental health problems or behavioural crises in the acute paediatric unit following the COVID-19 pandemic, including eating disorders and self-harming. Unprecedented demand on services had also resulted in increasing waiting times for these vulnerable patients.

Mr Cole and Mr Ramjeet worked together to share their nursing experience and vision, and secured £235,000 worth of funding from the trust to address these issues. They recruited a dedicated specialist team to support children and their families presenting at A&E to access appropriate care as soon as possible.

The mental health support team are available seven days a week to provide therapeutic interventions, and Mr Cole and Mr Ramjeet ensured that children and their families are considered every step of the way.

Children with eating disorders are better supported, there has been a reduction in episodes of self-harm, and violent incidents, and the use of restraint has been reduced. Feedback from parents and carers has been positive, while safety and the working environment on the ward has improved.

Mr Cole said: ‘We feel passionate about the significant impact the mental health practitioners are having in improving the quality of care for children and their families and carers. This award will give us the platform to share our innovation nationally, as well as our learning and the changes we have made to enhance the service for vulnerable children and young people.’

Commitment to Carers award

Andrea Hone, Commitment to Carers Award winner
Andrea Hone

Andrea Hone, West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Carers lead Andrea Hone acted quickly when the National Inpatient Survey showed that her trust had scored below average for involving patients in discharge decisions. More needed to be done to consider individuals’ home situations.

Working with the hospital’s integrated discharge team and Hertfordshire County Council, Ms Hone started the Connecting with Carers Discharge Project and recruited a carer coordinator.

She approached carers of patients in Watford General Hospital’s frailty unit, listening to what mattered most to them when caring for older relatives going back into the community.

Ms Hone used this information to change the support offered to carers during patients’ admission to the hospital and once they are discharged.

The integrated discharge team ensures prompt referrals for support from voluntary organisations, and carers receive follow-up calls at two and four weeks after discharge to review referrals, check on well-being and discuss any concerns. They have also established a point of contact for carers who need help or advice.

‘I am passionate about making a difference for our carers, so to win an award for this is absolutely amazing,’ Ms Hone said.

‘To get the recognition for the hard work that has been carried out to develop the service is an honour.’

‘But as well as being proud, I’m excited for the future as this will showcase the importance of supporting carers, not only in my organisation but raising its profile nationally. Hopefully it will give me opportunities to improve the service further.’

Sponsored by NHS England and NHS Improvement

Community and General Practice Nursing award

Neighbourhood specialist nursing team, Allied Health South Lincolnshire

Members of the Neighbourhood Specialist Nursing Team
Members of the Neighbourhood Specialist Nursing Team

Allied Health South Lincolnshire’s neighbourhood nursing team focuses on helping people with frailty of all ages keep their independence.

With a high risk of dramatic deterioration in physical and mental well-being if people lose their independence, for example through a fall, adequate and timely care is important. The 18-strong neighbourhood team was established to transform fragmented care into a cohesive, integrated service that solves problems for patients and enhances their day-to-day lives.

Team member Kieran Harris said: ‘Our forward-thinking team is making a difference by working together with each individual person to identify what matters to them, and recognising what can be done to help keep local people safe, well and happy in their own homes.

‘Our focus is that people want a life not a service, and we are working with colleagues and people with lived experience across our health and care system to make this real for people.

Fellow team member Jessica Merritt added: ‘To win this award is an honour and a surprise against such strong and worthy finalists.

'It means the world to our team and proves how far we have come in improving services and listening to and prioritising what matters to the people of South Lincolnshire.’

Sponsored by NHS England

Excellence in Cancer Research award

Jo Hargroves, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Jo Hargroves, Excellence in Cancer Research Award winner
Jo Hargroves Picture: Barney Newman

Lead cancer research nurse Jo Hargroves believed her team should share its experience and expertise through an education programme for staff who are new to clinical research.

She created a course to introduce colleagues to cancer research, designing its content, delivery and evaluation. After a successful pilot for internal staff, Ms Hargroves offered the course externally in March 2022 to any new staff working in local cancer research networks.

In total, 69 attended, hearing 27 speakers deliver a variety of sessions over four days.

Ms Hargroves said she hopes the recognition the award generates will inspire other centres to either send staff on her course or create similar in-house programmes themselves. ‘I am so proud of the course and what it’s achieved so far, but know it can go on to even greater things.

‘Cancer clinical research is such a fantastic specialty, and I would love to see the profile of it raised, which winning this award will do on a local and national level.

‘It would also show to others the importance and value of including patients in education, which inevitably will improve patient experience and outcomes.’

Feedback on the course has been positive and Ms Hargroves, who is also a senior nurse at Cancer Research UK, plans to deliver it twice a year, opening registration to staff across the UK.

Sponsored by Cancer Research UK

Greener Nursing Practice award

Robert Vicente, Greener Nursing Practice Award winner
Robert Vicente Picture: Barney Newman

Robert Vicente, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Inspired by the focus on sustainability at work in his home country of the Philippines, charge nurse Robert Vicente set out to reduce the waste generated through use of disposable items, especially gloves, in his workplace.

Despite working on the T8 infection ward at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one of the wards with the highest infection control and prevention requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Vicente identified instances where the team could avoid the use of disposable gloves.

He galvanised support from the trust’s infection control team, while his team actively promoted hand hygiene best practice with a poster campaign. Incredibly, his ward reduced its disposable glove use count by 36,500 over a four-month period.

Sponsored by Greener NHS

Innovations in Your Specialty award

Susie Lagrata, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Susie Lagrata, Innovations in Your Specialty Award winner
Susie Lagrata Picture: Barney Newman

Advanced nurse practitioner Susie Lagrata has transformed headache services at her trust by starting the first nurse-led specialised headache treatment centre in Europe.

The burden of headaches on patients, health services and society as a whole is extremely high. Studies show they are underestimated, under-diagnosed and under-treated. Ms Lagrata’s work has reduced waiting times from 4-6 months down to just two weeks, and she has since trained many nurses and doctors at her trust and across the UK.

Multiple cranial nerve block (MCNB) procedures and Botox injections were previously performed in only a few headache centres in the UK, and only by consultant neurologists. Ms Lagrata noted the growing waiting list and waiting time for the procedures, and proposed being trained by the consultants so she could set up a nurse-led MCNB clinic.

‘This award is a big win, not just for me, but for my team, the headache nursing community and patients with primary headache disorders, as it will help increase everyone’s awareness of these conditions,’ she said.

‘I am a proud internationally educated nurse from the Philippines and this win is also a big win all for all of us.

'It is a strong message and tangible evidence that when you put your heart and hard work into something you are passionate about, anyone can succeed.’

Sponsored by the Nursing and Midwifery Council

Learning Disability Nursing award

Gerard Wainwright, St Anne’s Community Services, West Yorkshire

Gerard Wainright , Learning Disability Nursing Award winner
Gerard Wainright Picture: John Houlihan

Gerard Wainwright led the Unsafe Swallow Project to address the disproportionately high number of people with learning disabilities who die because of aspiration pneumonia caused by swallowing difficulties.

Inspired by a former patient with cerebral palsy who almost died of aspiration pneumonia in 2015, Mr Wainwright was determined to raise awareness of the health inequalities caused by unsafe swallowing.

‘I’ve been aware of and concerned about dysphagia and aspiration risk for people with learning disabilities for many years and have nursed numerous people who have died because of aspiration pneumonia,’ he said. ‘These are people I’ve developed close relationships with and cared about, people whose families I’ve got to know, people whose health and well-being I am deeply invested in.’

The project, which was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, initially provided webinar-based training to non-nursing services supporting people with learning disabilities at risk of unsafe swallowing. Free video learning resources were developed that have now been used by hundreds of people globally.

Services have reported greater knowledge of and confidence in identifying unsafe swallowing, as well as better awareness of referral pathways, following the training. Many say they have seen a reduction in aspiration-related chest infections. Those with more complex clients report reduced hospital admissions as a result of using techniques such as postural drainage, positioning at mealtimes and recording vital signs.

Mr Wainwright said it was ‘amazing’ to win the award. ‘Having the opportunity to try to ensure that in future risks are reduced and unnecessary deaths do not occur is something that’s important to me,’ he said. ‘Winning this award will hopefully provide a platform to share that message more widely, make a greater difference and reach a wider audience.’

Mental Health Nursing award

The mental health animal welfare team
The mental health animal welfare team Picture: Tim George

Mental health animal welfare team, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

This nursing team co-designed a programme with animal welfare workers to target young people with mental health problems who struggle to engage with education or one-to-one and group therapies.

Psychological therapist and senior nurse Callum Moore was inspired to launch the programme after working with a young patient who had not left the house for a year.

When asked what would help them leave the house and engage with the world again, they responded ‘animals’. Mr Moore set up a visit to the RSPCA, where the patient took part in a ‘life-changing’ animal welfare course.

Seeing the positive effect inspired the team to develop a six-week programme on animal welfare for other youngsters, using interacting with animals as the foundation of much of the therapies.

‘The course is innovative in that it benefits both animals and people,’ said Mr Moore. ‘Through promoting kindness and compassion to all animals, the programme helps young people improve their mental health and well-being. We talk about animals and their protective behaviours and working with young people to explore their own protective behaviours and what they need to feel mentally safe and well.’

Service-users receive one-to-one nursing support during sessions and friendships are fostered by working with other young people on practical projects.

Mr Moore said completing the programme not only gives young people a sense of well-being, it also offers recognition of their achievements through accreditation and a bridge to education and job opportunities.

‘Winning this award and the recognition of the achievements of everyone involved in the project makes the staff and young people more determined to improve it,’ he said.

‘It also gives recognition for this new approach – that talking about animals, as well as just being around animals, can improve the well-being and mental health of young people.

'It's been a long hard road for all of us, and winning the award is the icing on the cake.’

Sponsored by NHS Professionals

Nursing Older People award

Katherine Matthews, Care UK

Katherine Matthews, Nursing Older People Award winner
Katherine Matthews Picture: Stephen Shepherd

Perry Manor Care Home manager Katherine Matthews realised people with neurological challenges and mental health needs were being placed out of the county, which made it difficult to maintain contact with family and loved ones.

Determined to provide a local home-from-home alternative in Worcestershire, she designed a tailored service as an alternative to a remote secure psychiatric setting.

With the full support and backing of the home’s operations director, Ms Matthews and her team designed a bespoke service to meet this unmet need. The team modified their existing dementia service to launch a 14-person high-needs option, named the Malvern suite, in July 2021.

At the suite each resident from secure psychiatric services receives one-to-one care for at least a month, while the team assesses their needs and works to reduce their anxiety and distressed behaviour. Residents feel safer and understood, reducing the need for safety interventions. Since the introduction of the suite, the administration of antipsychotic medications and benzodiazepines has halved.

Ms Matthews said: ‘To win such a prestigious award for doing a job that I adore is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

'I am utterly delighted to be recognised, as I feel that nurses who work in the social care sector are often overlooked.

‘For my work to be not only acknowledged but discussed in wider circles is testament to the difference my service makes and to the outstanding work my team undertakes every day.’

Sponsored by Aquarate

Nursing Student award

David Richens, Bournemouth University

David Richens, Nursing Student Award winner
David Richens

Having previously become addicted to opioid medication following brain surgery, mental health nursing student Dave Richens was inspired to establish the Drink ‘n’ Drugs initiative, which supports people to overcome addiction.

The organisation particularly supports those who are homeless and sleeping rough, with volunteers and healthcare professionals providing signposting to services such as housing, and support when applying for benefits. Naloxone emergency kits are also issued to those who are at risk of overdosing on opioid-based drugs.

The service offers support meetings, hot meals, drinks, warm clothing, personal hygiene products, sleeping bags and tents to people sleeping rough, as well as therapies such as hypnotherapy, acupuncture and counselling.

‘I never thought I'd be clean from drugs and doing what I’m doing,’ Mr Richens said. ‘In the darkest moments I found myself sleeping rough, after having worked in the ambulance service for ten years, responding to patients like me who had possibly overdosed or had poor mental health and wanted to end it all.

‘I’m living proof that if you work hard enough, anyone can do it and, most importantly, maintain it long-term. I know that with the right tools, support and guidance, others can get clean and sober, and be able to live happier, more productive and prosperous lives.’

Since setting up Drink ‘n’ Drugs in 2020, Mr Richens has dedicated most of his spare time to the project and even self-funds the service as much as possible.

Mr Richens said: ‘I’m completely blown away to win this award and shine a much-needed spotlight on this cause.

‘It is a fantastic way to thank those volunteers and healthcare professionals who donate their time, experience and qualifications to work alongside me to make this project possible.’

Sponsored by RCN

Nursing Support Worker award

Recovery through sport team, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Kevin Hale and Dorian Wood, nursing Support Worker award winners
Kevin Hale and Dorian Wood Picture: Stephen Shepherd

Kevin Hale and Dorian Wood are tackling loneliness and improving physical health with their all-inclusive sports club for patients with mental illness.

Initiatives at their support group include a football squad and Wales’s first ever walking rugby club. The sports are attended by forensic patients, community team patients and those cared for in the private sector, helping them gain confidence and manage their weight – something that is often difficult for patients using certain medications.

Working with local sports clubs including Gwent Dragons rugby club and Abergavenny Town football club, Mr Wood and Mr Hale have forged links with older adult and learning disability teams and secured donated kits for patients.

‘This award means so much to us as we have worked hard to provide a sporting programme that is easily accessible to everyone, not just people with poor mental health,’ said Mr Hale.

‘It will help to end the stigma sometimes associated with people with mental health issues.

‘The whole team in forensic psychiatry is supportive of our Recovery Through Sport programme, so this accolade is fantastic for everyone.’

Sponsored by RCN

Patient’s Choice award

Sarah Malik, Compassion in Dying

Sarah Malik, Patient's Choice award winner
Sarah Malik

Elizabeth Pepper nominated Sarah Malik, a specialist information and support nurse at charity Compassion in Dying, for her help and guidance in ensuring her husband had a good death.

Ms Pepper said: ‘When my husband wanted to write an advance decision statement, I could only cry. Sarah gently and empathetically reassured and guided us, patiently answering our questions and helping us arrive at a consensus, sharing vital information about what happens in death with enormous sensitivity.

‘My husband got his advance decision and I could recognise that I was empowering him. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to resist the pressure to send him to hospital at the end of his life. He was able to die at home.’

Ms Malik said: ‘I love the work I do, and I feel proud that the work we all do at Compassion in Dying has been “seen”.

‘It feels really meaningful. And I’m happy for the opportunity to focus on what needs to happen to support more people to have the end of life that is right for them.’

Sponsored by Alexandra

Team of the Year award

One Step at a Time, West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group

Emma Harnett (front right) and the One step at a Time team
Emma Harnett (front right) and the One step at a Time team Picture: Tim George

Macmillan nurse Emma Harnett and patient panel lead Ann Nutt joined forces with patient engagement expert Shahid Sardar to promote the patient voice in cancer care and improve services.

Now a team of ten, One Step at a Time: Supporting the Cancer Journey provides non-clinical information created by patients for patients. There are videos from survivors and carers translated into many languages, including Romanian, Polish, Punjabi, Urdu and Italian, along with a non-clinical patient pocket guide. The information is given to patients at diagnosis and is now part of the cancer campaign strategy.

‘To win this award is a great recognition of the hard work put in by the whole team to implement this new practice and culture,’ said Ms Harnett.

‘The team are incredibly proud and grateful to have their work recognised and rewarded, despite working through the challenges of a pandemic to implement a new practice.

‘It also reinforces the good work and commitment that has been demonstrated by the staff and provides motivation to continue improvement work within the ward.’

Sponsored by LV