NHS nurses who went extra mile at sharp end of Covid pandemic shortlisted for Who Cares Wins award

THEY’RE the angels of the pandemic.

Our fantastic nurses have cared for our loved ones when we couldn’t.

Enduring scenes akin to a war zone, they continued to put themselves in harm's way even when most of us were safely shut behind our front doors.

These three exceptional nurses represent the best of their profession and have been nominated for a gong at the Who Cares Wins awards.

The winner will be honoured in a star-studded ceremony next month hosted by Davina McCall and screened by Channel 4.

From highlighting key public health issues to launching a Covid bereavement system from scratch and working tirelessly at the sharp end of the pandemic, our finalists have shown exceptional dedication and courage.

Here we reveal the three finalists for Best Nurse.

Who Cares Wins awards

The Who Cares Wins awards honour those who have helped take care of the nation.

Here are the categories:

  • 999 Hero
  • Best Charity
  • Best Doctor
  • Best Midwife
  • Best Nurse
  • Groundbreaking Pioneer
  • Mental Health Hero
  • National Lottery Award
  • Unsung Hero
  • Young Hero

AS the first wave of the pandemic hit, hospitals braced themselves as they were besieged with cases.

Across the country medical establishments were closed to visitors and thousands were dying alone

When Susan Ayrton, 50, from Blackpool, was desperate to see her dad Neville, 73, before he died from the disease at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. 

But lead nurse for end of life and bereavement Jackie Brunton, who had been drafted into the front line to talk with families, immediately leapt into action. 

She grabbed her iPhone so Susan could have a final FaceTime video call with her father before they turned off his life support.

The moment’s they spent virtually together gave her comfort. 

In the days following she spearheaded ways that she could help relatives keep in touch with their families in hospital. 

She received £80,000 from the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal fund which went towards implementing a communication system for the hospital so families could stay in touch with iPads on every ward.

She also set up a bereavement centre so relatives could call in and get advice and she put together a business case for a bereavement team.

VIRTUAL GOODBYES

Mrs Brunton, 45, from Preston, Lancs, said: “We set up things very quickly. 

“We used iPhones and iPads so people could ’visit’ their loved ones.

“When the pandemic hit we didn’t have bereavement support service and we set one up very quickly. 

“We set up a team and worked very closely with the wards and families who couldn’t come in.

“After the pandemic we have got a very good legacy now for the people of Blackpool. 

Susan, who nominated her for the award, said: “She is just amazing. She is never off duty. She went above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic. 

“She didn’t miss one person during the past 18 months. She worked so hard to make sure families were looked after.”

IT is a job that runs in the family for Ross Anderson.

His grandmother came to Britain from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation and worked as a nursing assistant.

So it was perhaps not surprising that Ross, and his sister too, would become nurses.

Ross, 34, from Leatherhead, Surrey, is a deputy charge nurse at Guy and St Thomas’ sexual health clinic in London and was redeployed to the front line of the Covid pandemic back in March 2020. 

He said: “It is a job I love to do every day. Having that fulfilment and seeing the difference you make every day is amazing.

“My grandmother worked as a nursing assistant and those caring attributes that she had have been passed down to me and my sister who is also a nurse.

“As a family we are quite caring and always have people around us and helping people is part of who we are.”

Ross is passionate about diversity in the NHS and works frequently with managers about how to make things better for all his patients.

'WHO WE ARE'

He said that being to participate in the Florence Nightingale Windrush Leadership Course meant “a great deal to me personally as it is also a part of my heritage”.

He said: “Working in London you have a diverse population and it is important to have staff who look like them.

“I find it easy to connect to people and it is important to the outcomes of the patients involved. So having diversity in the workforce is important.

“I have open conversations with management about it and I highlight ways we can be more inclusive whether it is training, access to opportunities or anything that can help. I make sure it is on the agenda.”

Ross is delighted to be nominated for the best nurse award.

He said: “When you go into nursing you don’t think you're going to get nominated for an award. It is a great honour but that’s not what you go into the profession for!

“When I go home I don’t think I have done anything extraordinary. I just did my job.”

His team leader Andrea Hayden, 53, who nominated him, said: “He is such an amazing young man.  

“He is passionate about his role as a nurse and always has a smile on his face regardless of what is happening around him.  He is a great mentor and someone to look up to!”

INTENSIVE care nurse Dawn Bilbrough was going about her daily tasks when she heard a familiar voice on the radio – her own.

After posting a tearful plea for Brits to stop stockpiling on social media, the 52-year-old had become an overnight viral sensation.

In the video – posted in March 2020 – the mum-of-one broke down in exhaustion and frustration after being confronted with bare shelves at her local supermarket.

“You need to stop it,” she said, her voice breaking, “because it’s people like me who are going to be looking after you.”

A natural “introvert”, the locum nurse was compelled to act after struggling to find food to eat while working on the Covid frontline.

Dawn, from York, said: “I’m not a social media-oriented person but I just wanted to give people a bit of a wake up call to see how their actions were affecting people.

“I only wanted to keep myself healthy and couldn’t even buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

“I didn’t expect it to snowball like they did but I’m really pleased that people seemed to sit up and take notice.”

After unwittingly gaining a public profile, Dawn didn’t stop there. She used her newfound fame to raise awareness about working conditions for NHS staff and inform the public about the pandemic.

She said: “Even now staff morale isn’t great but we all keep turning up and supporting each other and giving the best support we can.

“We keep picking each other up because we have to support each other. At the peak of the pandemic I had some real low moments – seeing your patients not progressing and the impact on families has been difficult emotionally.”

In her 20 years in nursing, Dawn admits she “never experienced” anything like the sharp end of the Covid pandemic. 

But she adds: “I’ve been doing this for years but on a good day there’s nothing better.”

Dawn was nominated by her colleague Sana Saddique, 21, who said: “Dawn deserves to win this award as she is probably one of the most caring nurses I have ever worked with.”


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