UNISON is the UK’s largest healthcare union representing 450,000 members working across the spectrum of healthcare settings and occupations in the UK.
In 2017 we worked with Cavell Nurses’ Trust to create a new category for the previous Cavell Awards programme to recognise the outstanding contribution to healthcare made by Healthcare Assistants. In doing so we took the opportunity to inaugurate it as the Jean Atkinson award for outstanding healthcare assistants, to commemorate Jean’s life and work in the NHS and in UNISON.
Jean (pictured right) worked in the NHS for 28 years, latterly as a healthcare assistant at Mersey Care NHS Trust. She was a particularly passionate advocate for healthcare assistants as she saw at first hand just how vital a contribution they make to maintaining high standards of care and just how often they are overlooked and undervalued.
She was a long-standing union rep and branch secretary in UNISON’s Liverpool Community and Hospitals Branch, working tirelessly to stand up for NHS staff and patients alike. Her approach to union work was always based on building collective strength and as a negotiator she was quiet and deliberative and never one to bluster or showboat.
Jean was awarded an MBE in the December 2009 New Year’s honours list and typically for her was quick to share the credit saying: “I am very proud to accept this MBE which I see belonging as much to my colleagues in Mersey Care and to UNISON members, as to me”.
Jean died in 2015 of myeloma aged 69 and is an immense loss to her family, her colleagues, her UNISON branch, and her patients.
It was a proud day for UNISON back in June 2017 when Jean’s son Ian was there to present the first Cavell Nurses’ Trust award for outstanding healthcare assistants to Stephanie Morris – a very worthy winner and a UNISON member. Members of Jean’s branch were also there to celebrate with Stephanie
Stephanie’s story took her from the charity sector to working as a healthcare assistant in the demanding environment of Ashworth high security psychiatric hospital. UNISON knows she is one of many hundreds of amazing and inspiring healthcare assistants who work in all corners of healthcare and who all deserve to be celebrated.
So we are delighted that this year the UNISON health group, the UNISON North West region and Jean’s local UNISON branch will be sponsoring the new Cavell Star Awards. The programme will enable many more staff to be recognised, and allow us to continue to pay tribute to Jean and the shining example she set of supporting colleagues to be the best in order to deliver high standards of patient care.
So please take a moment to think about all the healthcare assistants you know – that special someone who always goes the extra mile – and nominate them for a Cavell Star Award.
If you are an employer, now is the time to work with your local UNISON branch to think about running Cavell Star Awards in your workplace and celebrating all the great nurses and healthcare assistants who work for you.
"UNISON is proud to support the Cavell Star Awards. We know first-hand just how many healthcare assistants, nurses and midwives go above and beyond every day to support their colleagues, their patients and patients’ families.
These daily acts of outstanding care are deeply appreciated by the people who receive them, but often go unnoticed and unrecognised by the wider world.
Working with Cavell Nurses’ Trust we aim to put that right by helping people to show their appreciation of the wonderful work nursing staff do by nominating them for a prestigious Star award.
We are particularly keen to encourage the nomination of healthcare assistants, building on the outstanding healthcare assistant award that we jointly set up in 2017 in memory of the late Jean Atkinson MBE. A UNISON activist who worked in the NHS for 28 years, Jean dedicated her life to improving the lives of patients and their families and supporting other healthcare assistants to deliver the highest standards of care.
We look forward to helping Cavell Nurses’ Trust grow the Cavell Star Awards from strength to strength."
Sara Gorton, UNISON Head of Health
Become a Cavell Star Awards sponsor