Domestic Assistant Cleaner at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust wins Our Health Heroes award for COVID-19 care

Photo of Tina Hughes

By Skills for Health | 24 March 2021

Tina Hughes, a Domestic Assistant Cleaner at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM), has been named UNISON Operational Support Services Worker of the Year, at the fifth Our Health Heroes Awards, for her dedicated work throughout COVID-19.

More than 300 NHS and Social Care staff came together virtually on March 23, with sector and government leaders for the ceremony, where Tina was presented with the top award by Sara Gorton, Head of Health at UNISON.

Healthcare professionals submitted more than 600 nominations across nine award categories, including the closely contested public vote for the Operational Services Support Worker of the Year title. On announcing the national winner, Sara said: “The past year has been extremely challenging for the entire NHS, but the pandemic has also reminded us that the service cannot function without the whole team. When the stakes have never been higher, our operational services support staff – roles often overlooked for praise or awards – have risen to the challenge. Tina is the very definition of an unsung hero, and it is fantastic that we get to shine a light on incredible individuals like her today.” 

Delivered with the help of our partners NHS Employers, UNISON, SFJ Awards and Bevan Brittan, the annual Our Health Heroes campaign shines a light on the extraordinary efforts of thousands of healthcare support staff who work hard behind the scenes to keep the system running. After a year in which the NHS faced its toughest ever challenges, the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown was an apt day to be recognising, reflecting, and celebrating the difference to people lives these unsung health heroes continue to make, day after day.

Tina has worked for the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust for over 14 years. As a Domestic Assistant Cleaner for 2gether Support Solutions, on the Rainbow Ward at QEQM, her passion for her role is clear. But it was during the early stage of the pandemic when Tina’s innate desire for helping others shone through.

When a colleague’s 94-year-old grandfather had been an inpatient in QEQM for just over two weeks, and the family were unable to visit him due to the pandemic, Tina helped the family keep in contact with him during this very emotional and distressing time. Initially, Tina communicated verbal messages to the man, but when he contracted COVID-19 and had not much longer to live, and when no one in the family had seen him for nearly three months, Tina went to long lengths to enable video calls for numerous members of the family, using her own phone. Tina’s support gave the family an opportunity to say a final goodbye they will never forget.

Tina’s colleague said: “I have known Tina for years, and she has always been a positive presence on the ward for staff, children and their families, but this time her personal help to me and my family has totally gone beyond all expectations. I have told Tina how much her help means to us.”

Trudy Gleeson, Director of Facilities Solutions for 2gether Support Solutions said: “The whole team are delighted that Tina has been recognised by the Our Health Heroes Awards for her outstanding commitment and dedication. Tina is an excellent role model to staff across the whole organisation. However, she is very humble about what she does, and perhaps doesn’t realise the incredible positive impact she has on the people she works with, as well patients and their families.”

In 2019, Tina took part in making a short video about her role. When she heard about her win she said: “I am very proud to be recognised with this award. I am humbled, as I consider myself just part of a role within the NHS. I’m overwhelmed – I believe that we are all heroes and part of the NHS family. Thank you!” 

Tina fought off strong competition from two other finalists from across the UK, yet after securing the most support via a public vote, was decided the national gold winner. Marie Smith, Ward Clerk within the Intermediate Care Unit team at St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, took home the silver, and Laura Hurford, Learning and Development Senior Administrator at Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, was awarded the bronze.

John Rogers, our Chief Executive at Skills for Health said: “The last twelve months have well and truly confirmed how fortunate the NHS and the UK are to have so many staff, in such a wide range of roles, dedicated to working as one healthcare team, delivering exceptional, compassionate care to millions of people every day. Operational Support Services Workers like Tina, Marie and Laura play a crucial part keeping people, systems and processes running, without whom the NHS simply could not survive. We must continue to ensure they are recognised and rewarded for their truly humbling efforts.”




Press release: Our Health Heroes 2022 winners 

All-female winners scoop prizes at Our Health Heroes Awards 2022 

Winners of Our Health Heroes Awards 2022 announced 

Get the latest updates by email

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to receive the latest updates straight to your inbox. We’ll keep you up to date with sector news, insights, intelligence reports, service updates and special offers on our services and solutions.

Sign up to our newsletter