DEDICATED NHS staff, from behavioural therapists to gardeners, have been celebrated at a special ceremony in the city.

There were whoops, cheers and tears of joy as Oxford Health’s finest gathered for the 2019 Staff Recognition Awards earlier this month.

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More than 200 excited attendees from across the NHS foundation trust, which manages the county’s community hospitals as well as mental health services, gathered at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford to find out who would be victorious in 11 categories.

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Gardener Chris Willis, centre. All pictures: Ric Mellis

Staff and volunteers who had been shortlisted were joined by friends, family, senior trust executives and some of the monthly Exceptional People Award winners, who had been commended for their service throughout the year, at the special ceremony on December 3.

Oxfordshire winners included Georgina Boyling, a behavioural therapist in Oxford who became deaf after battling meningitis and now works to improve things for deaf people in society,

She said: “I’ve lived in the hearing world as a hearing person and now for the last 22 years.

"I am a deaf person in a hearing world, so I have experienced first-hand the difficulties a deaf or hard of hearing person faces every day.”

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IAPT digital team

Other winners were Valerie Sullivan a 72-year-old volunteer at Bicester Community Hospital who helps patients and says she’d work there every day if she could, and Chris Willis, a gardener at Littlemore Mental Health Centre.

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There were also team awards, with the admin staff for Central Oxfordshire Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services rewarded for their hard work, as were the digital team that works with Talking Space Plus in Oxfordshire.

Trust chief executive Stuart Bell CBE told the audience the fifth awards would be his last as he is to retire in 2020 after 37 years’ service in the NHS, with more than seven of them leading Oxford Health.

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Valerie Sullivan with her volunteer of the year award

He said: “This event is one of the favourite things that I do in the trust, and so it’s a very special evening for me.

“Our vision for Oxford Health is outstanding care provided by outstanding people. This evening proves that this vision is not just talk, it’s realising it. The reason you are all here tonight is because of the outstanding things you are doing, day in and day out, and you are all outstanding people.”

He added: “I think tonight is one of those things that just reminds us - in the midst of all events going on in the wider world, just how special the NHS is; how special what the NHS does is and how special the people who work in it really are – and that’s you.”

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Georgina Boyling with her award

Each one of the trust’s more than 6,700 staff had a chance to nominate a team or colleague for special recognition.

Of the 11 awards one category – Improving Patient Experience – was dedicated to patients’ and service users’ experiences of their treatment with the trust.

Other categories recognised volunteers for their unstinting commitment, newly qualified nurses and those who help promote equality and diversity.

Winners received an engraved glass trophy, vouchers, £100 for an individual, £200 for a team, plus a certificate from Mr Bell and trust chair David Walker.