Twelve health worker heroes were recognised for their incredible efforts in a terrible year when they were crowned winners at our Health and Care Awards.

Hundreds tuned into the online ceremony which was live streamed on the Oxford Mail Facebook page on Friday evening.

The awards, that champion teams and individuals that have gone above and beyond the call of duty during the Covid pandemic, were presented by Dr Hilary Jones MBE.

After the ceremony he said: “It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to host the awards.

“This year perhaps more than any other it is time to recognise and celebrate the outstanding and magnificent work of all health and social care workers during the pandemic.

“I am in awe of all they have achieved and the country owes them a massive debt of gratitude.”

Our 12 winners, picked from 36 finalists, were chosen by a panel of judges and included those who risked their lives on the frontline in hospitals as well as heroes in the community.

Courtney Hughes was not only crowned Care Hero of the Year but received the judges’ overall Outstanding Achievement Award.

Courtney, 23, a trainee nursing associate at Oxford University Hospitals, founded charity Secret Santa 365, which provides gifts, care packages and social support to the elderly, the lonely and the vulnerable.

During the pandemic she also launched the Laptops for Learners appeal and raised thousands to buy 30 laptops for young people who had switched to home-schooling but did not have digital devices.

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On top of that she supported more than 200 elderly people in Didcot, delivered care packages to her colleagues and sourced bedding and furniture for frontline workers living in temporary accommodation.

As well as winning two awards Courtney was runner-up in the Unsung Hero category.

She said it had been an incredibly challenging year.

“We were contacted by more and more families who were struggling with food, laptops, plus a big increase in people who were shielding and isolated. Not only was the immediate issue physical items, but an increase in the decline on mental health - particularly in the older age group.

"Part of giving the weekly food boxes was an opportunity to check in on those people. Even a five-minute chat made such a difference.”

Courtney, who lives in Didcot with partner Pedro, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, said: “I won’t lie, the past 12 months have been busy and very emotional at times. I am driven always by the spirit of my great-grandmother Elsie who the charity was founded in memory of, and her motto of ‘the gift of giving’.”

Georgeta Marcut, care team leader at Kirlena House in Kennington, received the Care Home Worker Award.

Chantal Nicolaou, a live-in carer with Oxford Aunts, who has been preparing champagne dinners for her 100-year-old client, said she was “totally blown away” to win the Domiciliary Care category.

The Linen Services at Oxford University Hospitals won the Healthcare Team Award for supplying essential scrubs and uniforms at the height of the PPE shortage.

The Mental Health Award went to the free Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Mental Health Helpline and the Good Nurse award was won by Tamara Davidson, a specialist palliative care nurse at Oxford University Hospitals who was nominated by the husband of a patient who she had helped die with dignity at home.

She said: "It’s an honour to have received this in Kirsty’s name.”

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The lifesaving Children’s Air Ambulance, which estimates it lost up to £2.5million in income through Covid, won the Adolescent and Child Healthcare category.

The Close Care Home in Burcot won the Healthcare Employer Award and  Stoyan Zhelev, a care manager at Kirlena House in Kennington, won the Dementia Carer Award.

Prabhu Natarajan, a carer at Glebefields Care Home in Banbury, was Volunteer of the Year.

Mr Natarajan, who came to Banbury from Kerala in India last year, raised £4,500 in two months for families struggling in the crisis and also set up a foodbank while working night shifts.

The Unsung Hero Award went to Paula Cross, who runs Kriss Kross hair and beauty in Carterton, who among other things turned her salon into a pop-up foodbank.

She said: “I feel incredibly humbled to have won this award, although it means less to me to have won than it does to have been able to help the people who have struggled to put food on the table during this difficult period.”

Luther Street Medical Centre was named GP Practice of the Year.

Editor Pete Gavan said: “It’s fantastic to shine a light on the work our winners and finalists have done this past year. Thank you from everyone at the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times.”

  • The awards were kindly sponsored by: The New Foscote Hospital, Oxford Bus Company, The Close Care Home, Day and Nightcare Assistance, Michael Jones Jeweller, Charles Stanley Wealth Managers, NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Bicester Caravan and Leisure, Unipart Logistics and Siemens Healthineers.
  • Don’t miss our winners’ supplement out on Thursday.