Lhch Header
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, Thomas Drive, L14 3PE
Switchboard: 0151 600 1616

Liverpool nurse providing a lifeline for colleagues who are unpaid carers wins award

Date: 13 October 2021 09:29

A nurse who set up a support group for colleagues who are unpaid carers outside work has won a prestigious award.

Joanne Shaw, who works for Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, won the NHS England-sponsored Commitment to Carers category of the RCN Nursing Awards 2021.

Ms Shaw, the head of nursing for clinical services and safeguarding at the trust,  was announced as winner at the October 12 ceremony.

When she became a carer to her young son, Ms Shaw gained a better understanding of the challenges faced by colleagues with caring responsibilities outside of work, whether for an elderly parent, unwell relative, partner or child.

‘Caring can be extremely demanding and tiring, and talking to someone in a similar situation can help,’ she says. ‘It is difficult coping with that role while managing work as well.’

Her network provides a safe environment for staff to meet with others, discuss issues or just take time out from their caring responsibilities. Lunchtime meetings – with lunch provided by local charities - have guest speakers and while representatives of the local carers’ centre visit to register staff as carers.

Meeting topics include caring for a child with an illness or long-term disability, coping strategies, caring for an elderly relative and how carers can look after themselves while juggling work and home responsibilities.

‘When you are a carer you spend a lot of time focusing on someone else, but it’s important you think about your own wellbeing,’ says Ms Shaw.             

‘As a nurse for over 20 years who is also a carer for my young son, I am extremely proud to win this prestigious Commitment to Carers Award.

‘Carers make up approximately one third of the NHS workforce and often go unrecognised but if we can support, guide and care for our staff they in turn will be there for our patients. Winning this award is a great opportunity to share best practice and hopefully encourage and inspire others to run similar group in their area of work.

‘This is really easy to implement and I hope all trusts show they have a commitment to carers.’  

The Commitment to Carers award is sponsored by NHS England. Jen Kenward, experience of care lead - community, primary and integrated care, for NHS England says: ‘The judging for this year’s Commitment to Carers award was tougher than ever. Every entry demonstrated a really meaningful way of working proactively, compassionately and purposefully to improve how unpaid carers are identified, supported and their own well-being considered. 

‘The pandemic has seen the challenges faced by unpaid carers magnified as services have changed and many carers have felt isolated. During this time the number of unpaid carers has risen dramatically and the most recent NHS staff survey suggests that 1 in 3 of our NHS colleagues also has an unpaid caring role outside of work.

‘The judges were really struck by Joanne’s insight into the challenges experienced by unpaid carers and her compassion and drive to support colleagues juggling work and a caring role.  She has developed a support network that ensures no staff with caring responsibilities are left alone, they know where to access support and have a safe space to share their concerns. Joanne’s passion and drive for this work is just exceptional.’

Chair of the judges Joanne Bosanquet, chief executive for the Foundation of Nursing Studies, says: ‘Joanne’s insight into the importance of social determinants on health and well-being of unpaid carers was amazing. Joanne stunned the panel with her use of data and evidence to demonstrate the need to focus on carers in the workplace. Joanne is a highly visible and strong leader and advocate for equality and diversity at work.’

Sue Pemberton, director of nursing, safety and quality at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, says: ‘Jo is a highly respected head of nursing for clinical services.  As well as providing nursing leadership within the division, Jo has played a lead role in the development of the carers’ network at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.

‘This has been an invaluable place where staff come along and find mutual support and encouragement, a safe space to share with others in similar situations and find a piece of helpful advice and guidance.  This supports the trust vision of inclusivity and caring for our staff.  This has been hugely appreciated by many of our team when they’ve needed it most.’


The Commitment to Carers Award is sponsored by NHS England

NHS England’s mission is to ensure health and high-quality care for all, now and future generations. NHS England creates the culture and conditions for health and care services and staff to deliver the highest standard of care and ensure that valuable public resources are used effectively to get the best outcomes for individuals, communities and society for now and for future generations.

Find out more at www.england.nhs.uk