EXCELLENCE in healthcare on Wearside was celebrated at the Echo’s Best of Health Awards.
Hundreds of people attended the glitzy bash at Ramside Hall Hotel, as prizes were handed out to those who have gone the extra mile for their patients.
The audience heard heartwarming tales of health staff who have made a difference to the lives of people across Wearside.
Stuart Birkett, managing director of North East Press, welcomed those attending last night, before compere for the evening Steve Walls handed out this year’s awards.
Carer of the Year went to Bluebird Care worker Wendy Tullick, who was presented with the honour by Carol Harries, director of corporate affairs at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
Wendy, 44, was described as “one in a million” by one person who nominated her.
Wendy, of South Hylton, helps people with various illnesses and their families on a daily basis.
She said: “I absolutely love my job and this is just a complete bonus.
“Some people I care for need a little bit of help but others need more, whether it’s with physical or mental health problems.
“I’m sure all the people I work with will be pleased to see me win.”
Wendy’s employers Bluebird Care had a double celebration after they also scooped the Customer Service Award.
Those nominating the company said carers were “loving and gentle” with patients.
Leigh Finn, who is a director and co-owner of the firm alongside husband Stephen, said: “This is absolutely amazing for us. It needs to be said that it’s not just for the people from Bluebird who have come here tonight but also everybody who works for the company.
“We couldn’t have done it without them.”
“We are proud of ourselves and so pleased with the reward that has come tonight.
“Thanks to everybody who nominated us.”
Dr Chris Perera, a consultant psychiatrist at Cherry Knowle Hospital, in Ryhope, took the Hospital Doctor of the Year award.
The 68-year-old admitted he was taken aback after being told he had won.
Dr Perera said: “I’m completely stunned.
“It’s an absolute privilege to be a doctor and a psychiatrist. I thank God that he has called me to this work.”
Those nominating Dr Perera said he is “a real role model to others”. Dr Perera added: “I would like to dedicate the award to the team of nurses I work with, I am so grateful to them. I’d also like to thank my patients.”
Ward sister Julie Bennett scooped the Hospital Nurse/Midwife of the Year gong at the awards.
The 45-year-old works on the F63 paediatric ward at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Parents of children who have been treated on the ward nominated her because of the dedication and also the sense of fun they say she brings to her work.
Julie said: “I have to say that without the people I work with I couldn’t be the nurse I am. They are all absolutely fantastic and the award is for them as much as me.
“I don’t know who nominated me and this has come right out of the blue. I’m still in shock at winning.”
Annette Irving picked up the Mental Health Nurse Award on behalf of winner David Bleasdale, who was unable to attend the ceremony.
Annette, who is David’s manager at Hillview Clinic, where he is based, said: “David is an absolutely fantastic nurse and totally deserves this.
“He goes above and beyond what is expected of him and even comes in on his days off, that’s how dedicated he is.
“He’ll be over the moon with this. He’s a real team player and we’re all so proud of him.”
GP/Practice of the Year went to Dr Robert Murray, of Deerness Park Medical Group, which has nine doctors working there.
Dr Murray, 54, was quick to praise other staff at the surgery.
He said: “This award isn’t just for me but on behalf of the rest of the team.
“It’s very kind of the patients to nominate us and we are grateful for that.
“It’s nice to be appreciated.”
Belief in Recovery Team won the Mental Health and Learning Disability Team of the Year Award.
The team uses holistic techniques to treat those suffering from mental health problems.
Margaret Baker, of Belief in Recovery Team, said: “We are delighted to win this award.
“We feel the work that we do really helps to empower patients.”
Liz Close is the Best of Health Community Nurse of the Year.
Liz, a Sunderland Community Matron, from Silksworth, looks after patients with serious long-term conditions and helps them to manage as independently as they can.
The 53-year-old said: “I’m so shocked to win. I’m stunned. “I’ve been nursing for 37 years but it’s always rewarding doing what I do.
“I’ve always just tried to do my job and hope it makes a difference. “You don’t think of winning awards like this.”
Taking the Clinical Support Award was the Podiatry Diabetes/Wound Management Team, which is based at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Ecstatic staff members Elaine Ricci and Diane Knowles picked up the award at last night’s bash.
Elaine said: “We are very surprised to win but also very proud.
“We specialise in treating diabetic foot ulcers and at times we see those suffering the very worst of the condition.
“It’s not often people like us get recognised so tonight has just been amazing.
“Especially because in the last year we have changed our service quite a bit and done a lot of work.”
The judging panel decided that the Community Team of the Year is the Sunderland 24/7 Intermediate Care Team.
The group, which consists of about 30 staff, provides a service which helps people with illnesses to manage their conditions at home rather than them being admitted to hospital.
Lisa Kempster, of the team, said: “It’s a very rewarding job and we have all previously worked in hospitals so we have a lot of experience.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback recently and this award tops it off.
“The patients we care for are always asking what they can do for us and they’ve obviously decided to nominate us which we are shocked, but pleased, about.”
One of the biggest winners on the night however was consultant surgeon Cyrus Muwanga, who picked up the surprise Special Recognition Award.
Mr Muwanga, who is retiring this summer, has been in charge of the A&E department at Sunderland Royal Hospital for the past 24 years.
He was given a standing ovation by the audience in honour of his outstanding service to the city of Sunderland. The 63-year-old, who is originally from Uganda, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful and I am over the moon with this award.
“I would like to thank the people who nominated for even thinking of me.
“It’s great to know that the staff think so highly of me. I’m gobsmacked and chuffed to bits.
“I’d also like to thank the people of Sunderland who have been brilliant to me since I started work there.”
l For more details and pictures on this year’s Best of Health Awards, see a special supplement in the Echo next week.
l Comment – Page 32