It was smiles all round at our second Royal Free London (RFL) Oscars awards last night (Wednesday 7 June), which celebrated the hard work and dedication of our wonderful colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital (RFH). 

The event was hosted by Dr John Connolly, RFH chief executive, who was joined by the executive team alongside a special guest presenter – Sharron Grant, director of HR and organisational development for the Royal Free Charity who was part of the judging panel.  

To start off the awards, John offered his thanks to colleagues in the room: “Everyone here today is a part of the story of the NHS and the RFL, and to be nominated this year is a significant achievement that you should all be proud of. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge congratulations to you all.”

There were 266 nominations for individuals and teams within RFH and the standard of entries this year made it very difficult to select and award winners across 13 categories. Thank you to the Royal Free Charity for supporting this year's awards.

Well done to all the nominees, runners up and winners:

Volunteer of the year award winner: Jean Prentice
Runner up: Jennifer Lawrence

Jean has provided a consistent, valuable and dedicated service to the RFH intensive care unit for exactly a year now. She comes in to help the team every two weeks with stocking up and replenishing the care after death grab bags, and her work has had a hugely positive impact on both the patients and staff. Her role requires great compassion and the team have said they are extremely grateful for the conscientious way she undertakes it. Rebecca Longmate, director of nursing, RFH, offered the award and said: “She consistently displays all the trust’s world class care values, identifies issues and displays excellent communication skills.” 

Jean is also a prolific knitter who has made many orange hats for the newborns, hats for the neonatal unit and knitted breasts for the maternity ward for use in encouraging new mums to breastfeed. Her past volunteering experience includes supporting the patient and staff library and the book service.

Clinician of the year award winner: Sarah Edwards, lead nurse for the Ian Charleson Day Centre (ICDC)
Runners up: Sarah Milne, lead nurse nephrology and clinical lead for chronic kidney disease and outpatients, and Tara Sood, emergency department (ED) consultant, clinical practice guidelines chair for ambulatory and emergency care – virtual hospital

Sarah works as both a manager and clinician and is said to ‘excel’ in both positions by those who nominated her. She embraces diversity within the PITU team and attends to queries in a timely and fair manner with monthly meetings. Douglas Thorburn, divisional clinical director for liver and digestive health, RFH, presented the award and said: “Sarah goes the extra mile to ensure patients experience the best clinical care, while always living the trust values and ensuring the whole team do the same daily. She also provides excellent level of care when on the floor either at ICDC - HIV clinic, PITU and covering 11 south when required, which reflects how clinically competent she is by adapting to different environments so easily.”

Clinical team of the year award winner: the breast screening team
Runners up: day surgery, theatres leadership team and cardiac rehab services

The breast screening team consists of six clinical services and an overarching London administration hub, of which our trust hosts two and the hub. Our services are the highest performing in the London region, and the RFL services have consistently delivered excellent clinical and operational outcomes on a local, regional and national level. “The team is creative and resourceful, working together to achieve these outcomes for patients in line with the varying needs of a diverse population. I am sure you will all agree the service is an important one that we should all be proud of," said John Connolly when presenting the award.

Non-clinical team of the year award winner: Electronic patient record (EPR) clinical assessment service (CAS) working group
Runners up: ICU technicians’ team, bed and site team, breast screening admin hub

The EPR CAS working group came together in 2022 to create a new clinical triage and workflow that enables clinicians, booking staff and patient navigators to work efficiently and effectively with outpatient referrals. This workflow ensures the best combination of diagnostics and appointments are put in place for patients or that GPs are supported with advice on how to manage patient care out of hospital. The workflow ensures that treatment can be agreed at the first attendance, meaning patients require less follow up. Rachel Anticoni, director of operations, RFH, praised the group for their “curiosity, creativity and persistence to design the best possible workflow and build it in EPR". She said: “It brings together all the information clinicians need into one place and patients are benefiting from the workflow by receiving treatment in fewer attendances, and waiting times are reducing.”

Non-clinical employee of the year award winner: Abdigani Farah, senior validator in the dermatology service
Runner up: Allie Casey, assistant operations manager for ED

Abdigani has done an extreme amount of work to bring the waiting lists for dermatology down from 104 weeks in 2022 to 70 weeks, with plans to further reduce this to 52 weeks by the summer. Tim Callaghan, director of financial performance and deputy CFO, RFH, presented the award and said: “Abdigani quietly and efficiently carries out his duties, ensuring that he engages with both clinical and administrative team members. He has also built excellent relationships with outsourced teams and actively works on achieving a successful exit strategy for their use.”

Shining star award winner: Tracey Dixon, junior sister, 8 east
Runner up: Azmina Rose, lead for cancer patient experience and Macmillan information centres and Doreen Tanton, anaesthetics administrator

(Pictured: colleague collecting the award on Tracey's behalf)

“Tracey has been described as the ‘heart and brain’ of the ward that she works on, who will know where to find everything and anything ranging from patients’ preferences to the birthdays of colleagues”, Natalie Ware, assistant director of people, RFH, said when presenting the award. Staff have said they can approach this person with any issues and is always there to listen and help. As one person who nominated this winner said: “You know that if she is on your shift, she will be there to support you no matter if you’re a student, a health care support worker, a junior doctor or a consultant.”

Quality improvement and efficiency award winner: Gareth Murcutt, technical manager to renal network services
Runners up: 7 West, Pre-operative and preoperative assessment CPG team; LDH/theatre/ICU/ bed and site team; Naomi Walsh, lead nurse for practice development; and Karen Turner, senior improvement adviser

Presenting the award, Sharron Grant said: “Gareth has worked to positively progress the hospital’s sustainability targets by seeking to improve the emissions associated with dialysis. He carried out a study to create a ‘bottom up’ method of foot printing by turning each part of the process into the common currency of carbon dioxide, and in doing so found that by switching to a central delivery system a typical 30-bed dialysis unit could save £20,000 a year in acid concentrate.” 

Moving to this system will help save at least two and a half hours of staff time each day, and most importantly a single unit could save 6,188kg of CO2 equivalent a year. The trial of the system will start on two renal units this summer, and his work was recently recognised by the Royal College of Physicians where he was invited to present his findings.

Outstanding contribution to education award winner: education team for anaesthetics, theatre and critical care
Runners up: diabetes and endocrine consultant team and Dr Alim Samji, HSEP consultant

The education team for anaesthetics, theatre and critical care has been working tirelessly to ensure that there is a robust education offering in their department across the trust. There is a now a suite of internally delivered academically accredited programmes that meet national qualification in speciality standards. “These programmes have ensured that the division has a registered nursing workforce that have the right skills, attitudes and behaviours to look after our patients, and such an offering requires a team of educators across the group that are experts in their field and in education delivery. This work has also been recognised across the system with the education team leading the training and upskilling, education and career pathways for anaesthetics and critical care nurses London-wide”, said Rachel Anticoni who presented the award.

Outstanding contribution to research award winner: the ICDC clinical team

The ICDC clinical team has showcased clinical integration of research within their department which has led to clinical nurses and phlebotomists receiving training to enable them to work on clinical trials. This has ensured that research is embedded into care delivery in line with the mission of the trust. One of the nurse practitioners reports that his practice has been enhanced both clinically and in a research capacity, which has enriched how patient care is delivered. Staff are also more confident in discussing research with patients and explaining its importance. 

Successful delivery of vaccine research during the pandemic is because of collaboration between the wider clinical team and research, which provided great flexibility whilst additional research resource was promptly identified. Douglas Thorburn presented the award, stating: “The ease of bringing clinical teams from the HIV department to work on research was a result of the embedded research culture, implemented by research and clinical leads with the support of Sarah Edwards and clinical lead nurses.”

Outstanding contribution to patient safety award winner: the planned investigation treatment unit (PITU)
Runners up: Caroline Cahill, senior discharge matron and diabetes clinical nurse specialist team

“The planned investigation treatment unit continually strives to provide WCC to patients who require day medical care and planned investigation, covering a rage of specialities including, rheumatology, neurology, clinical immunology, hepatology, nephrology, respiratory medicine and general surgery”, Rebecca Longmate said when presenting the award. Last year, they utilised their service further to help with the flow of the hospital and initiated a pathway to enable earlier discharge. An exceptional incident that happened last year meant the team had to vacate their location and cancel patients to allow dialysis patients to be dialysed in their area. They took this in their stride and the whole team came together to help with the move physically at short notice and help the dialysis team to move in. They then had to ensure that patients cancelled were absorbed after reopening, in a timely manner. They accomplished this unprecedented event with no complaint and successful collaboration, and ensured cancelled patients were reabsorbed after reopening.

Chairman’s leadership award winner: Mohammad Noor, head of nursing
Runners up: Katherine Hannon, matron in day surgery, pre-assessment and 7 North, Dr Daniel Knight, consultant in pulmonary hypertension service and Gleen Vigilia, ward manager for 8N

Mohammad provides leadership to two of the largest and most complex divisions in the whole trust. He has led the transformation and expansion of ICU from a 33-bed unit to 50 beds with a dedicated liver ICU and specialist post operative care for complex surgery. He has played a pivotal role in the success of liver services in post pandemic recovery, and his leadership contributions are highlighted by the transformation of culture and engagement of colleagues across both the divisions he leads. John Connolly said: “His leadership impact is particularly notable for reaching beyond professional and divisional boundaries and extends to system leadership for critical care. He has developed and mentored others in leadership positions within his divisions and is always an excellent role model.”


Celebrating diversity award winner: Alisha Ali, deputy director of nursing, unplanned care

Alisha has worked as a key member of a working group to develop an excellent initiative around mentoring for black and ethnic minority leaders. Tim Callaghan noted: “Alisha is passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and play a key role in encouraging staff to speak up about inequalities in the workplace. She is also feeding into the freedom from racism programme and providing valuable insight about how we shift the dial around this important issue within the organisation.”

Living our values award winner: Sarah Hillyard-Hayes, discharge co-ordinator
Runners up: Pallavi Joshi, health care supporter worker on 7W, Lauren Geddes, respiratory physiotherapist and Musharrifa Cain, quality governance manager

(Pictured from left to right: Sarah Hillyard-Hayes and Caroline Cahill)

Sarah is a discharge coordinator and is said to be an integral part of the team. She makes sure patients have safe discharges by ensuring efficient communication with patients, family and the whole multidisciplinary team. Presenting the award, Natalie Ware said: “Sarah is committed to her work and has trained new and existing nurses on the discharge pathways. She has created numerous tools for the ward to facilitate communication with outside agencies and has created professional relationships with bed managers, district nurses and social workers.”

(Pictured: runners up posing with their certificates)

Our RFH winners, alongside winners from other sites, will be invited to attend the group awards at the Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, on Tuesday 4 July.

The overall RFL group winners will be announced at the evening reception which will be followed by the 75th anniversary of the NHS on 5 July.

Two more site awards events are taking place this month to celebrate staff working within corporate services and Barnet Hospital.