Unsung hero accolade for Eric

Berwick Infirmary's Eric McMekkin won the unsung hero gong at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust's annual staff awards.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 26 October, 2018, 09:24
Eric McMekkin receiving his 'unsung hero' award at our 2018 staff awards from chief executive Jim Mackey

The award, presented by chief executive Jim Mackey was recognition for his efforts to keep the old heating system up and running and patients and staff warm.

His commitment shone through during the Beast from the East storm when he travelled 15 miles by tractor, police car and 4x4 to get to work.

The 2018 Building a Caring Future Staff Awards were themed as a birthday tea party to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

The awards recognise the outstanding contribution of staff working in hospitals and the community in delivering high quality patient care.

The 12 award categories reflect the wide range of services provided by the trust, recognising both clinical and non-clinical employees.

Two of the awards recognised teams – the emergency department at The Northumbria hospital and the trust-wide infection control team – which were heavily involved in the trust’s effective response to one of the worst winters on record when it was affected by outbreaks of flu and norovirus.

Mr Mackey said: “In this landmark year for the NHS, it’s more important than ever to take time out to celebrate all that our staff have achieved over the last 12 months.

“Following the hardest, and longest, winters many of us can remember, it’s fantastic to be able to reward our staff for their unfaltering work during this period of sustained pressure, and throughout the year.

“At any one time, truly excellent work is taking place in our hospitals, in the community and behind the scenes and these awards are another way of us saying thank you.

“Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everybody who nominated their colleagues, we really do appreciate it.”

The award winners were as follows:

Patients first – Dawn Cunningham

Dawn is a nutritional assistant on the elderly care ward at The Northumbria hospital. Always ‘happy, cheerful and willing to help’, Dawn goes out of her way to encourage patients, who are often frail, to eat to help their recovery.

Safe and high quality care award – infection control team

Last winter the infection control team was pivotal in managing the trust’s record number of norovirus and flu outbreaks and ensured disruption to patient care was limited where possible. The team’s ‘vigorous and appropriate’ response was praised by an independent external clinician.

Innovation and quality improvement award – handover project

This project has improved the ‘handover’ of patients between shifts and across sites. Involving medical and nursing teams, it developed a three-question model to identify patients most at risk and the most effective ways to communicate with others at different sites.

Partnership working award – digital care team

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The digital care team provides on-going support to clinical teams to ensure the transition from paper to electronic documentation was as smooth as possible. Members of the team, who are from a clinical background, were always ‘available’ and ‘approachable’.

Everyone’s contribution counts – emergency department at The Northumbria hospital

The department has faced an extremely busy last two years – and particularly last winter – and the team has pulled together to support each other and ensure that patients are kept safe. The team has introduced a new way of working which has created a much calmer and more efficient service and lifted staff morale.

Personal development – Sharon Proud

Nursing assistant Sharon Proud is always looking to develop her skills and improve her knowledge and was recently named ‘student of the year’ for her enthusiasm and dedication to a course she completed. As well as enhancing her own learning, Sharon takes a keen interest to helping her colleagues with theirs.

Rosemary Stephenson nurse, midwife or nursing assistant of the year award – Angela Moore

Having worked in the nursing profession for more than 40 years, Angela is a well-known figure in the trust and has passed on her knowledge and passion for compassionate care through her current role in education.

Volunteer of the year award – Ted Bramley

Ted Bramley has volunteered with Macmillan for more than 10 years and provided one-to-one bereavement support to many individuals. Using his personal knowledge and professional skills, he has gone above and beyond in his role.

Respect and compassion award – Cameron Armstrong

Cameron, a health trainer and community development worker in Northumberland, has worked tirelessly to help Syrian refugee families feel safe and access healthcare services. Cameron set up the first refugee football team in the county and, due to his support, the families now feel a sense of belonging within the community.

Unsung hero – Eric McMekkin

Eric McMekkin is described as the ‘hero’ of Berwick Infirmary, working tirelessly to keep the old heating system up and running and patients and staff warm. During the ‘beast from the east’ when Berwick was cut off, Eric managed to travel the 15 miles from his home to work by tractor, police car and 4x4 such was his commitment to his role.

Inspiring wellbeing – Julie Hogarth

Overweight and facing surgery for joint pain, Julie Hogarth decided to transform her lifestyle before she turned 50. Julie embarked on a healthy diet with lots of exercise and has lost seven stones, including inspiring her team along the way. She also went to Tanzania with the trust’s international link programme.

Chief executive’s making a difference award – Hexham maternity team

For the first time, this award was presented to a team, not an individual. Hexham maternity hospital and community teams are working together to embrace the principles of the recommendations within NHS England’s Better Births to improve women’s experience of continuity of care. Staff have proposed that they adapt to a team approach, providing opportunities for women to get to know the teams during pregnancy, increasing the likelihood that they will then receive care in labour from a midwife known to them.