24 October 2018

The Unsung Hero Awards team have been on the road again – and more and more people are nominating their heroes as a result.

The UHA roadshow pulled up at the Countess of Chester Hospital, the city’s main hospital which was officially named this by Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1984, and we were given another warm welcome.


Photos of the 'heart' of the Trust. 

Nominate your unsung hero by clicking HERE

Myself and Tracy Scott, the UHA Event Manager, were greeted by Steven Birch, Communications and PR officer and taken up to our display area – outside the main hospital canteen.


And Steven also arranged two special trips for us…

Firstly, it was great to meet one of our past winners – Helen Nowakowska – who won Leader of The Year in Corporate Functions in 2018 for, amongst other things, being an inspirational leader and demonstrating core Trust values of safety, kindness and effectiveness.


Helen was pleased to see the UHA on her turf and happily posed for a photo and she told us one of our 2018 and 2019 sponsors, Cerner, would be working together with Countess within the next two years.

She also told us how it felt to win a UHA in 2018, saying: “It was really lovely and very surprising. I really didn’t think I’d win. It was great just to be nominated, there were so many different people in the room that night I was really shocked in the end to actually win the award.”

Of the Awards night, she added: “it was really exciting, it was really busy and ‘buzzy’, and the room looked beautiful. There were loads of different people there and I bumped into people that I had met previously and people that I used to work with, it was great to meet new people as well as people I already knew”.


Helen also told us how winning a UHA had impacted on her working life, adding: “It’s also been nice for my peers within this Trust as they were excited for me and it was noted by the executive team. I was called a ‘national treasure’ even. I have also been able to keep in contact with people I met on the night and maintain links there.

In our Trust we have our Celebration of Achievement Award that encompasses both clinical and non-clinical staff. I do think there is recognition within our Trust, but I think it’s difficult to compare clinical and non-clinical."

“If you are a doctor, or a nurse, or a therapist saving lives then it’s not quite the same as an admin person, even though it’s just as important to support those people to do their job. These people are sometimes in the background, so I think the Unsung Hero Awards is fantastic as it highlights that it’s not just medical and clinical staff, it’s also the hundreds of thousands of other people that support them to deliver their role to patients.”

After chatting with Helen and her colleagues, Steven took me on a behind-the-scenes trip around one of the engine-rooms of the Trust – the kitchens!


Once suitably ‘Health & Safety’ approved, Steven and I made our way to meet Sue Miller, Head Chef. The staff at Countess of Chester pride themselves on preparing fresh food and not brought in ready meals. 


We watched as staff worked on cooking the ingredients for ‘Fish and Chip Friday’, whilst at the same time a separate team worked closely together, carefully fulfilling all manner of personal dietary requests for patients on the wards and at a neighbouring Trust.

Sue explained how she had worked up the ranks from washing up in her early days and how she had dedicated her professional working life to the Catering Department. Nowadays she is in a management position and oversees most of the work, but she still loves to work on the ‘conveyor belt’ when possible to prep meals with her team.

Afterwards, back in the Catering offices we spoke to Craig Hough, Head of Catering Services. Amongst other things, Craig explained that Countess is a hospital that ‘traffic lights’ their daily meals, to show the sugar, salt and fat and no longer serves sugary drinks from the restaurant. The also offer healthier alternatives and will happily cater to diets for staff and patients, including the rise in plant-based eating.


Craig then explained that he will be the first person from catering at Countess to go over to a hospital in Africa soon to observe the way they work and see if he can increase income generation, as well as dust of his cook book and makes some local foods for the staff and patients to try. While Craig will be reimbursed for his trip, he is taking personal holiday to cover the time away.

Tracy, in the meantime, was on the front-line, handing out our literature and promoting just what it is we do to the passing staff who had now filled up the canteen. When we weren’t having a good laugh with patients like Tom Hardy (below), we were engaging with all levels of medical and non-medical staff to promote the 2019 nominations.


As the afternoon ended, it was time to thank Steven and pack up another successful Trust visit as part of promoting this year’s nominations.

The Countess of Chester was a welcoming and diverse Trust, with staff from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, all working hard to provide a great service that has already seen one of their members of staff - Helen Nowakowska - recognised as the Unsung Hero that she is.

Nominate your unsung hero by clicking HERE.

Written by Laura Tomlinson, Relationship Manager at the Unsung Hero Awards.