The therapeutic supported volunteers team at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been recognised as one of the country’s top unsung health heroes after scooping a national award.
Now in its third year, The Sun newspaper’s Who Cares Wins Awards ceremony honours those across the health and social care sector who go above and beyond for their patients or cause. The volunteers won the Unsung Hero category.
The team received their award from medical broadcaster Dr Hilary Jones and Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas at a special ceremony held last night in London hosted by Lorraine Kelly.
The volunteers were represented at the awards by Debi McKeown, lead nurse for therapeutic support at the trust and volunteer Ify Nwokoro.
Ify was paralysed following a road traffic accident in 2009 but gives up his time to support patients with spinal injuries at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. In total there are more than 500 volunteers across the trust. Ify is one of 30 therapeutic supported volunteers who have a learning or physical disability.
The team were nominated by patient Sam Watson, 21, who was left paralysed in July. Sam had previously worked as part of the volunteer team before his accident.
Debi said: “I’m absolutely over the moon for the team to be recognised like this. It’s a real honour. The work that our volunteers do is fantastic and they are a real asset to the trust and the region.
“We have developed a very special community of people who are enhancing the patient experience while getting experience themselves. And often they have to overcome their own challenges too. Many of the team go on to get permanent roles at the trust, which is giving South Tees a home-grown workforce.
“The country can now see what we already know – that our volunteers are some of the best around.”