Nurse Leader of the Year

Clinical leaders have a fundamental role in ensuring the quality of nursing practice and patient care. The best community team leaders, ward managers and others lead by example, acting as excellent role models and demonstrating compassion and a commitment to ensuring their service offers the highest quality and safest care possible. They are aware of their patients’ needs and are firm advocates on their behalf, understand the importance of informing and reassuring patients and relatives, and have the skills to lead, support and motivate a team that is committed to offering excellent and compassionate care to all patients. This award category aims to recognise an exceptional nurse leader working in the NHS or independent sector who embodies these qualities. It is open to any nurse, working in the community or in an acute environment, who is leading a team of any size. We welcome entries from candidates themselves or nominations from those who wish to highlight a leader who they believe merits this recognition.

Sponsored By:

Sally Burnie
Milton Keynes University Hospital

Sally Burnie is the pinnacle of nurse leadership. In 15 years of working in cancer, she has pioneered efficient multi-disciplinary collaboration between nurses, medical staff, and allied health professionals. Her achievements, such as making a case to build a cancer centre and radiotherapy suite, are known to the wider Trust and have inspired student nurses and Junior Nurses to pursue a career in Cancer services. Her commitment to cancer services is commendable and inspiring. She was pivotal in establishing the first NHS cancer specialist services through the planning and petitioning of a dedicated treatment centre, which has not been achieved since the Hospital was built in the 1980s. She continuously modernises cancer services by integrating technologies to better patient-centred care; this includes using live tracking systems for equipment and personnel to prevent delays in treatment and monitoring during inpatient stays. Sally did not stop at only campaigning for a cancer centre but envisioned what other unmet needs the cancer population of Milton Keynes needed. This led to Sally cutting the Radiotherapy travelling times by half due to establishing the radiotherapy centre.Sally's unwavering drive to maintain the resilience of cancer care, particularly during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, is truly remarkable. She managed to keep treatment numbers steady and sustainable and upheld the' 62-day' treatment goal. This commitment ensured that the pandemic did not disrupt patients' treatment and journey to remission, providing a sense of security and continuity of care. Ultimately, Sally has become an inspiration to all her staff. She has achieved many milestones that prove she is an asset to the community and the Hospital by always trying to improve patient care and by the humility she expresses when interacting with patients and healthcare professionals alike. 

Phillipa Cain
Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust

Phillipa has been a Matron over the Older Adult Wards at Harbour Hospital for 2 years. During this time she has been instrumental on leading on cultural change and developments that have succeeded in gaining Gold Accreditation status. Phillipa is currently undertaking further work to gain Platinum status and submitting all the evidence to gain their QNOAMHS accreditation. Furthermore Phillipa has a passion for supporting quality improvement and has lead on key projects for the services such as reducing falls collaborative, supporting carers and relatives with visits in a meaningful way and the introduction of red to green and peer support workers on the dementia wards. This have been recognised at a trust level and gained recognition through conferences and award schemes. Phillipa’s passion for supporting teams is evident, she has undertaken her Professional Nurse Advocate Qualification is an active lead across the unit supporting staff with restorative supervisions. Phillipa is keen to support all 10 wards in delivering meaningful supervisions; giving staff/teams opportunity to reflect and grow. Furthermore, through the work she does as a Workplace Trauma Support she debriefs staff following incidents and offers ongoing meaningful support. The establishment of the Big Food Truck has been a massive success in supporting both staff and patients and recognises the hardships that cost of living has on people. Through liaison with the charity she was able to set up The Harbour as a stop on the route, the charity attend every Wednesday, patients volunteer their time to support the food bank setting up and then provide ongoing support to those accessing the service, bringing purpose to patients and providing a service. Staff are then able to access the food bank, taking home meals for the family for a reduced price enabling them to feel physically supported within their roles.

Emma Dixon
St Ann's Hospice

Emma is a registered nurse with over 25 years of NHS acute, private and voluntary clinical and senior operational management experience. She has strong communication, leadership and organisational skills. Her career to date has enabled her to gain experience in a number of specialities including surgery, end of life care, cancer, frailty, dementia, governance, quality, transformation and commissioning. Emma demonstrates undeniable success of collaborative working across organisational boundaries and developing effective internal and external partnerships, enhancing quality and ensuring sustainability of services. She has a strong understanding of the local and regional provision of services; being the lead on GM Hospices’ collaborative approach to roll-out the Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF) and the Regional Lead of the North West Clinical Leaders Regional Meeting, which is part of the Clinical Leaders Network led by Hospice UK. Emma joined St Ann’s Hospice in February 2020 as Head of Clinical Services at our Heald Green site and all aspects of her involvement have gone from strength to strength. Ensuring the highest level of care and safety to those working in our organisation was Emma’s utmost concern and she handled this incredibly well, still maintaining this high level of care to our patients and their families at this time. Having navigated the clinical services team through the pandemic, she's shown immense skills and experience learnt at this time. Emma has since successfully been promoted to Director of Clinical Services in September 2020, and she's constantly building on her wealth of knowledge 4 years later. Emma is dedicated and committed to her work and is a remarkable asset to the St Ann’s team, showing compassion with every person she speaks to and sets an example for everyone working at St Ann’s. We feel lucky and grateful to be led by and work with her.

Abi Hilton
Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust

To sum up Abi in 300 words is a very difficult task. When this nomination was discussed within our teams, the amount of people who were keen to contribute felt almost overwhelming, a real credit to the person Abi is. With her ‘can do’ attitude and drive for improvement, Abi enhances the lives of the patients and staff that she meets on a daily basis. Typically Abi answers requests with “the answer is yes, now how can we achieve this?”. No problem is unsolvable, no solution too unique. Abi’s passion for nursing shines through and since she joined LSCFT in 2022, she has made a difference every day and there has been a positive wave of change where everyone feels included. Abi is driven by her own experience of post-natal mental illness and of caring for her daughter with autism and complex needs. Her lived experiences is reflected in her practice where she champions diversity, inclusion and a sense of belonging. Whether she is chairing the trust wide learning disability and autism forum or developing pathways for staff development and retention, Abi dedicates herself to any task she is faced with. What makes Abi a fantastic leader is that she proudly develops junior staff and takes them on the journey with her, under her leadership and guidance. Abi recognises the value of learning and CPD so role models this to her teams. Despite working in a senior role as Associate Director of Nursing, Abi does not lose sight of the needs of the front line staff and the needs of the patients in their care. Abi will often put her Advanced Clinical Practice skills to good use in our inpatient settings by covering for junior doctor strikes or delivering clinical skills training.

Jennifer Loke
Park View Surgery

I am an effective leader, driven by a strong desire to support others in releasing latent potential. In terms of staff management, I promoted job satisfaction and organisational commitment. With regards to patient care, I facilitated achieving health goals. My successful leadership is my balanced use of transactional and transformational leadership to empower, mentor, guide, support and facilitate. This gives team members and patients, the ability to achieve shared goals and effective outcomes. Being a nurse leader, I made significant positive impact such as improved patient outcomes, effective practice performance, increased presence of our GP practice in scientific forums and increased staff morale. I strive to continue developing my leadership skills in my professional and personal capacities, those as highlighted by Kouzes and Posner: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart. Despite my leadership position, I retain an active clinical practice role to support junior nursing staff. My active role in direct patient care led to extremely positive patient feedback, which models a framework of outstanding clinical practice. This boosted staff morale, inspiring staff to not only adopt good practices, but motivated them to have commitment, and become innovative in their own practice. I frequently challenge practice policies and clinical procedures, that led to many Quality Improvement Projects (QIPs), the impact of which, has resulted in significant improvements to clinical outcomes. My focus on improving healthcare delivery has led to increased job satisfaction, even throughout the pandemic period when other GP practices persistently reported low staff morale. My leadership was evidenced through national recognition as follows: Queen’s Nurse Title, the GP practice being shortlisted for: 'The best employer for staff recognition and engagement’ by Nursing Times, and the General Practice Awards 2022 for ‘Clinical Improvement: Public Health and Prevention’.

Florence Grace Parafina
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust

Florence is an epitome of kind but firm leadership. I have worked with variety of managers, but Florence stood out as the best so far. She embodies balance between humanity and her work, she never fails to demonstrate humanity in all her clinical responsibilities/expectations. She would always say that her success as a person lies on the success of others, and this includes patients' successful treatments. she makes sure that each individual that comes in the hospital should be worry/harm free, and with a grateful heart, and this includes us, as her colleagues. She is a role model that practices what she preach. She has integrity that one cannot fault, and this transcends to patients. very compassionate that some point, at my lowest, she came to visit my mother at home to make sure I am supported. who would do that as a manager? Highly skilled, knowledgeable and makes sure that she shares her expertise to us. I have learned a lot from her in terms of leadership, things I wasn't made aware in my previous workplace. Florence now trusts me to conduct back to work interview, how to facilitate clinic flow, how to deal with concerning behaviors both from staff and patients. she taught me the value of listening, and what difference does it make, and how it changes emotions. One of Florence strength is she is able to retain employees wherever she goes. She makes sure that we continue to develop ourselves. her work ethics are to die for. She believes in having a clear vision and focus on strategy. She is keen on coaching and developing staff. she always say to as her deputies (two of us) 'focus on patients needs, however don't forget to support your colleagues so they can support patients.

Joan Pons Laplana
NHS England

During his 25 years as a nurse, Joan has continuously pushed boundaries of what is possible, mobilising others and making change happen more quickly and efficiently. he's a rebel with a cause. Leading at the front maximising both his clinical positions and wide-reaching social media networks to bring about positive change within the NHS & beyond. His call of action is one of the most powerful, and influential amongst the Nursing profession, reaching beyond the shores of Great Britain to the worldwide stage. The successful leadership in, and creation & initiation of the FluBee and Kissing Goodbye Sepsis being such examples. This resulted in positive change, significantly impacting on the outcomes not only in UK but worldwide. His social leadership, built over the years of committed clinical service has ensured his ability to build trusting, empowering relationships amongst many. When a leader offers a vision of a better improved future and presents both a compelling voice & importantly an action plan for achieving such, other people naturally follow. This is when great things happen, working TOGETHER to achieve a common goal. That has been & continues to be Joan. Today his focus and drive, is around inspiring, supporting, motivating, and empowering others. Primarily the Neurodiverse younger generation that anything is possible with the right mindset and support. That despite what others may class as limitations of neurodiversity, you can achieve anything. For that reason, Joan manages, support & lead neurodiverse students, providing them with skills and attributes required to take up positions within the NHS. Through leadership he ensures ensure that they are equipped with the required attributes needed within the rapidly ever changing, highly complexed and demanding healthcare environments. He plays his part in bringing the next generation into the NHS, what- ever role. Find more info at

Karen Pountney
Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust

Karen is a standout candidate for winning this award due to her exceptional leadership and innovative contributions to healthcare since joining our service 2 years ago. She serves as a role model for her team, consistently recognising the needs of both patients and colleagues. One of Karen's most impactful initiatives is the "Rainbow Baby" pilot program, which she passionately championed to improve care for families who have experienced the loss of a baby. Her unwavering dedication and support have not only inspired confidence but also empowered her team to successfully implement and further develop this program, significantly benefiting numerous families during their challenging times. Beyond this, Karen's focus on championing the needs of patients and staff is deeply rooted in her personal commitment to making a difference. She has spearheaded new services and programs that directly benefit patients and colleagues alike. For instance, her advocacy for digital health assessments and open access clinics has streamlined processes, ensured timely interventions, and ultimately improved care outcomes for patients. Additionally, her strong support for staff development and mentorship programs has cultivated a culture of growth and excellence within the healthcare team, fostering a supportive environment where everyone can thrive. Karen's strategic vision and personal dedication have brought about significant improvements in care and services within the healthcare sector. Her initiatives have not only enhanced patient care but also strengthened community relationships and enhanced access to quality healthcare. In summary, Karen's exceptional leadership, innovative spirit, and personal commitment to improving patient care and staff development make her an outstanding candidate for this award. Her contributions have had a profound impact on healthcare excellence, making her a deserving recipient of recognition and accolades.

Matthew Roberts
Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust

Matt qualified in September 2019 and has worked in female acute psychiatric wards since then. In 2021 he gained his band 6 position as a senior staff nurse, and undertook the Mary Seacole NHS leadership course. From there he was promoted to deputy ward manager in 2022 and was also ward manager for a period. Matt has been interested in improving the quality of care on the ward since he qualified. His main interest is working with patients living with complex needs, and supporting colleagues in doing so. As a junior nurse he worked with the ward management team on an AQUA project looking to reduce the number of restraints on the ward by implementing RAID training. He has delivered training to Preceptees and currently works with MDT colleagues delivering training specifically for female acute staff. He also took lots away from RAID training himself, and is glad that has now become a standard part of the ward staff training package. He is always looking at least restrictive approaches to working with patients. His current project is encouraging uptake of training for ward nursing staff to use wound glue for self-injury: this will hopefully reduce the need to send patients to emergency departments and improve their patient experience, both themes that sit within NICE guidance. He is also interested in giving student nurses a good placement experience and has been nominated for the 2024 Student Nursing Times Practice Supervisor of the Year. He is also a student himself, and has completed his first year of UCLAN’s MSc in personality Disorders, where he was recognised for submitting consistently high-scoring assignments. He has had to defer this MSc, as in September 2023 he successfully applied and started as a Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner, which carries its own MSc and supports advanced practice.

Julie Roye
East London NHS Foundation Trust

I am putting forward a nomination for the Nurse Leader of the Year award. This recognition is a testament to my unwavering dedication to the nursing profession, which has been underscored by previous wins as the RCN Leadership of the Year and Nurse of the Year. One of my most significant achievements has been spearheading a project in Bedford aimed at addressing health inequalities, resulting in a notable increase in cytology uptake. In Luton, I led an innovative initiative to improve digital literacy, ultimately enhancing patient care and communication within our practice. I have had the opportunity to take my skills nationwide and speak on developing teams and how to be a leader in primary care nursing. Beyond local initiatives, I have tirelessly collaborated with Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in Southwest England to champion diversity and inclusion efforts. Through these partnerships, we have worked to cultivate an environment that respects and values the contributions of all staff members. I have been the lead for the Black Asian Minority Ethnic group for general practice nurses (GPN), now known as global majority GPN. Central to my leadership approach has been the elevation of primary care nurses' roles and contributions. By changing perceptions and promoting their vital role in healthcare, I have empowered nurses to realise their full potential and make meaningful impacts on patient care. Furthermore, the introduction of peer reviews has been instrumental in enhancing our team's effectiveness and the overall quality of care we provide. This initiative fosters a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration, ensuring that we consistently deliver the highest standards of care. In summary, my work exemplifies the core tenets of nursing leadership: improving patient outcomes, advancing nursing practice, and cultivating an inclusive environment where every team member is valued.

Victoria Williams
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

I am very proud to be nominating Vicky Williams for Nurse Leader of the Year. Vicky is constantly pushing boundaries and striving to improve integrated working within stroke care. Vicky led on the development of one of the first stroke specific same day emergency care units in the UK to enable patients direct and rapid access to imaging, speciality reviews and speciality inpatient beds. Once this unit was embedded in MTW's stroke services, Vicky went on to extend it further to include the assessment and management of ambulatory patients with mild stroke symptoms. Vicky strongly promotes research within the nursing team, encouraging all team members to be as involved as possible. In addition to this, Vicky has also taken on the responsibility of being the principal investigator for two research trials. Vicky has exceptional leadership skills and these enable her to support the entire stroke multidisciplinary team. This has been demonstrated in her determination to establish a recruitment strategy and nursing development programme to upskill existing nursing team members to more senior positions. Vicky has a particular interest in stroke education and led on the development of the Kent and Medway stroke nursing competencies, in collaboration with colleagues in the region. Vicky has also led on the establishment of a Kent and Medway stroke conference, with the first conference date due to be hosted at MTW later this year and open to all disciplines working in stroke services in the region. Throughout the challenges that stroke services in Kent and Medway have faced in the past five years as a result of a significant reconfiguration and multiple emergency service closures, Vicky has a remained a constant advocate for all patients and colleagues within the region, ensuring that MTW were able to continue to deliver high quality care.