These staff working at Oxfordshire hospitals are making a massive difference to the lives of their patients and their efforts have been recognised at a special ceremony. Freddie Whittaker reports

DEDICATION and lifelong service were recognised as Oxfordshire’s Hospital Heroes were honoured at an awards ceremony at Blenheim Palace.

Two awards, sponsored by the Oxford Mail, were presented to nurse Rowena Pearce and the Ward 5F team from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The presentations were made as part of the Oxford University Hospitals Trust annual staff recognition awards, where the hard work of staff from across the trust’s four hospitals, and other sites, was recognised.

Rowena Pearce, a nurse who has dedicated most of her 30 years’ service in the NHS to working with children with disabilities, Down’s Syndrome in particular, won the individual Hospital Hero award.

Mum-of-two Mrs Pearce, 53, was nominated by three mums who she helped through the uncertainty of having a child born with Down’s Syndrome.

She said: “It’s a humbling experience. Nurses don’t go around getting recognised. It’s not something we aspire to.

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  • Sir Jonathan Michael applauds all the dedicated and hard working staff at the OUH

“Our aspirations are more to do with making sure patients are OK.

“I cannot even begin to explain the rewards of doing my job. My families are all so inspiring – the way they cope with the things they have to go through very early on in their children’s lives.

“Coming to terms with having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, and then having to come to terms with the fact that your child has to have life-changing surgery, is quite a thing.”

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  • Nearly 250 guests attended the ceremony

Mrs Pearce said attitudes to Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities have changed in recent years, and children born with complications were seen as having a much better chance of having a normal life. She added: “We do not consider Down’s Syndrome to be a terrible thing any more.

“Some adults you see dealing with it now did not have the same intervention as we can provide now.

“Most of them can live semi-independent lives and some end up learning to drive and hold down a couple of part-time jobs.

“Even 30 to 40 years ago, if a child born with Down’s Syndrome had a heart condition, the condition would not be treated and they would just be left to die.”

Maxine Hartnett was tearful when the team from the John Radcliffe’s ward 5F won the team award.

The 47-year-old from Blackbird Leys nominated the team because of their dedication to her when she suffered from liver disease.

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  • Maxine Hartnett, front, with the entire staff of Truelove Ward 5F

Mrs Hartnett was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis, probably caused by a virus, in 1998.

She said she was at “death’s door” when staff on ward 5F managed to get her well enough to have her second liver transplant.

Mrs Hartnett said: “I had a little tear in my eye, and so did my husband.

“They treat their patients so well. They treated me like one of the family and they don’t get recognised for the work they do.”

At the awards ceremony, on behalf of the team, senior ward housekeeper Annie Cousins and ward sister Susie Swann said they were delighted by the award.

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  • Peter and Maxine Hartnett, left, nominated Ward 5F, with Susie Swann, and Annie Cousins

Ms Cousins said: “We just don’t believe it. It is good for everyone on the ward but good for the patients too.”

Ms Swann added: “We had been saying we are not lucky people. We do not normally win things. We called my deputy on the ward and told her and she was so excited.”


Hospital Heroes Team award

  • Gold - The John Radcliffe Hospital’s gastroenterology ward 5F
  • Finalists – The Renal Unit at the Churchill Hospital, The four-strong Motor Neurone Disease clinic team at the John Radcliffe Hospital, The Intensive Care Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Sobell House Hospice, based in the Churchill Hospital grounds

Hospital Heroes Individual award

  • Gold - Children’s disability nurse Rowena Pearce from the Oxford Children’s Hospital
  • Finalists – Doctor Catherine Swales from the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre’s rheumatology department, Heart doctor Tim Betts from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Nurse Sarah Jackson, from the John Radcliffe Hospital’s plastic surgery department


  • Gold – Elizabeth Neale, Manager/Sister, Renal Unit, Milton Keynes Satellite Office. Nominated by Lindsay Bell, Renal, Milton Keynes and Claire Cox and Ann Middleton
  • Silver – Ellen Kandukira and Resty Quiatchon, Staff Nurse and Clinical Support Worker, John Warin Ward, Churchill Hospital.
  • Bronze – Jacky Rawlings, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Head and Neck Cancer.
  • Finalists– Sarah Chettoe, Senior Staff Nurse, Adult ICU; Dr Hywel Jones

Consultant Geratologist Excellence

  • Gold – Rebecca Hayden, Maternity Support Worker, John Radcliffe. Nominated by Sandra Snowdon, Maternity Unit, John Radcliffe
  • Silver – Dr Ben Esdaile, Consultant Dermatologist, Churchill Hospital
  • Bronze – Coralie Duff, Support Services Manager
  • Finalists – Kim Griffiths, Senior Ward Housekeeper, Delivery Suite; Gill Higgs, Specialist Nurse Practitioner, Cancer Genetics

Improvement to Services

  • Gold – Jesse Hayesmoore, Pre-Registration Clinical Scientist, Regional Genetics Laboratories. Nominated by Anneke Seller, Consultant Clinical Scientist Director of Genetics Labs
  • Silver – Debbie Grove, Advanced Nurse Practitioner for Predialysis
  • Bronze – Dr Jackie Palace, Consultant Neurologist, Multiple Sclerosis Team
  • Finalists – IMRT implementation group Radiotherapy, Churchill Hospital; Angela Downer, Paediatric Urology Specialist Nurse


  • Gold – Marilyn Relf, Bereavement Team Lead, Sobell House Bereavement Service. Nominated by Mary Miller, Palliative Care, Sobell House s Silver – Jo Durkin, VBI Project Lead, Workforce Division
  • Bronze – Janice Geaney, Assistant Finance Performance Manager, Corporate
  • Finalists – Beverley Manning, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Urology; Sarah Curtis and Jill Wilson, via Charitable Funds


  • Gold – Sarah Kidd-May, Divisional Nurse, NOC. Nominated by Karen Barker, Eniola Dada and Jo Lewis-Wood, NOC
  • Silver – Matthew Holdaway, Matron, Adult ICU
  • Bronze – Rebecca Black, Consultant Obstetrician
  • Finalists – Dr Sudhir Singh, Clinical Lead for Medicine; Dr Angela Kannan, Ortho-Geriatrician, Consultant


  • Gold – Elaine Blackie, Research Volunteer, Oxford Eye Hospital Clinical Trials. Nominated by Alexina Fantato, Ross Downes and Anna Rudenko, Oxford Eye Hospital Clinical Trials Unit
  • Silver – Ronald Watson, Volunteer on the Help Desk in the West Wing
  • Bronze – Sandra Richards, Biomedical Scientist, Cellular Pathology, Cytology
  • Finalists – Kenneth Richards, Volunteer Guide; Cardiac Rehabilitation Volunteers


  • Gold – Datix Team, Clinical Risk Management. Nominated by Nuala Buchan Brodie, Clinical Risk Management
  • Silver – Supported Hospital Discharge Team Assessors and Asst Assessors s Bronze – Churchill Thermal Ablation Team
  • Finalists – Enhanced Recovery Service, Thoracic Surgery Team; Jennifer Rawlinson and Emily Hollingworth, Community Midwifery Women’s Clinical Governance Team