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High Sheriff salutes our unsung NHS heroes

Kirstie Newton

From ward managers to hospital chaplains, IT specialists to volunteers, more than 20 members of staff from all departments of the NHS were rewarded as Unsung Heroes by the High Sheriff of Cornwall on Monday.

As covid-19 restrictions were lifted to allow members of the public to meet outside in groups of six, 22 people were presented with certificates and heard the praise and appreciation of colleagues at a socially distanced ceremony in the chapel at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

While all the traditional activities associated with the public face of the High Sheriff went out of the window with the pandemic, High Sheriff Kate Holborow launched the High Sheriff Unsung Hero Awards to recognise “those who work behind the scenes – and with small acts of everyday kindness, dedication and selflessness go above and beyond to play such a crucial role in our communities”.

Mrs Holborow said: “It is such a privilege to be here to recognise just some of the phenomenal work of the NHS in Cornwall over the last year.

“I was humbled to receive 42 nominations for the award from the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust and the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust. The individual citations make for extraordinary and emotional reading, and give evidence of huge camaraderie and teamwork.
“I thank all working in the NHS in Cornwall for their bravery, flexibility, personal sacrifice and dogged determination – thanks I know are echoed by all our Cornish communities.”

Ann Beresford of Truro was nominated by voluntary services co-ordinator, Verity Barker, who described her as a “covid volunteer superstar”, donating her time to the hospital daily and always willing to undertake additional shifts or longer hours.

A “cheerful and positive” presence, Ann has taken regular shifts in the Headland Chemotherapy Unit as a refreshment service volunteer; supported the vaccine trial at the end of 2020; accepted patient belongings from family members when no visitors are allowed on site, a new role introduced in February; and made up Going Home grocery bags for elderly and vulnerable patients.

“This is a time-consuming role but without Ann, we couldn’t operate this amazing free service,” said Verity. Receiving her award, Ann said: “I took retirement but I came back, and I have loved every minute of it.”

Senior healthcare chaplain Dom Whitting and the chaplaincy team received several nominations. Senior staff nurse Karen Storey said: “An example of his commitment to great care is being called to sit with an end-of-life patient at the request of a relative. Dom was telephoned by a staff member and was on his way home, but turned around and came back to be with the patient.”

Verity Barker described Dom as "a ray of sunshine in a grey covid world”, adding: " Whether handing out ‘treats’ to staff in the evening or sensitively dealing with bereaved family, Dom is a person of integrity and an incredible support to us all in these difficult and challenging times.

“He deserves to know how much he is admired and valued by the whole hospital.”

Matthew Overton and Gavin Griffiths were jointly nominated for their “tireless and selfless” work since the initial cases of covid were identified in January 2020.

Together they set up and managed the Trust Wide Incident Command Centre, which at times has had to run 24 hours a day.

“Without their commitment, we would not have been able to keep all our teams informed of what was going on, and we would not have had the complete join-up of all our services to respond to this challenge as one united organisation,” said Robin Jones, acting director of operations.

“Many people won’t know who Gavin and Matt are, but they will all have been impacted in a positive way from the work that they have done. They both embody the true spirit of the NHS.”

Verity Barker nominated the entire Volunteer Vaccination Team. “They didn’t exist until December, and then what a response,” she said.

“They were asked to cover two sites, seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Over 60 volunteers materialised, aged between 17 and 73, and they have undertaken whatever was asked, from welcoming patients to observing post-vaccination areas and wiping down chairs. We couldn’t have done it without them and I would love to recognise this fantastic dedicated team who, like us all, had no idea what covid was a year ago.”

Sarah Griffiths, chief technician for pharmacy procurement, played a key role in the procurement and supply of the covid vaccines and acquisition of key drugs.

Adam Edwards, deputy chief pharmacy technician, said: “Despite the tremendous pressure we’ve all experienced, she has remained a towering pillar of strength, leading from the front and driving us through the covid storm with a relentless commitment in an ever-changing hospital environment.”

Cheridan Morell-Davies, project manager of Cornwall IT Service (CITS), devised safe ways for staff to work both in and out of the hospital sites throughout the pandemic, including managing distribution during an unprecedented demand for devices that enabled staff to work remotely. 

“I cannot stress how difficult this work has been over the last 10 months, and I have no doubt that Cheri’s work in the background has gone some way to helping keep our staff and patients safe,” added programme manager Kym Mann.

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