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Medal honours for Hywel Dda staff

2 June 2022

Two remarkable members of Hywel Dda University Health Board staff have made the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to health and well-being during COVID-19.

Mandy Davies, Assistant Director of Nursing and Quality Improvement and Suzanne Tarrant Consultant Clinical Psychologist have both been awarded British Empire Medals (BEM), given in recognition for hands-on services to the local community.

The medals will be presented to them by the Dyfed Lord Lieutenant Miss Sara Edwards at a local ceremony, and the pair will also be invited to attend a Royal Garden Party later in the year.

The honours system recognises people who have made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping the UK.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our staff are consistently remarkable in their service to our communities, and particularly so during the last two-and-a-half years. I am delighted that two such exceptional members of our Hywel Dda family have been selected for this special honour.

“Both Mandy and Suzanne are well-known and respected amongst their peers as they have tirelessly pursued improvements in health and well-being for our staff, patients, and communities, not just during the pandemic, but over the course of their whole careers. We are so grateful to them for their leadership and tenacity, and we are extremely proud of them.”

Mandy Davies - Assistant Director of Nursing and Quality Improvement

In 1985, upon completion of her Nurse training at the University Hospital of Wales, Mandy moved to Pembrokeshire where she began her nursing career with the NHS. Since joining the NHS, Mandy has held a number of nursing roles in west Wales including as ward sister, general manager at Withybush General Hospital and Interim Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience before taking up her current role as Assistant Director of Nursing and Quality Improvement in 2017.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mandy was instrumental in setting up the Hywel Dda COVID-19 Command Centre. Believed to be the first centre of its kind in Wales, it was a core element of the COVID-19 response that provided staff with a single place for authoritative, up-to-date information during a rapidly evolving situation.

Successful in replying to enquiries through telephone and email, the Command Centre houses specialist ‘stations’ that are staffed by subject specialists for primary care, public health, workforce, occupational health, infection prevention and control and COVID-19 testing and vaccination. All contacts are logged on to a specially designed database and given to the appropriate specialty team for response and action.

Under Mandy’s leadership, the health board developed a process to ensure that specialist information and new clinical guidance was appropriately approved, updated and available. This included the consideration of national COVID-19 guidance by clinical leads, assessing any impact on local pathways and services, and the development of local guidance, as necessary. All approved guidance and resources were then made available to clinical and operational teams on specially developed internal webpages and communicated via daily emails to all staff.

All clinical guidance is logged on a dedicated register capturing approval status and other key details, which sits in alignment with the Command Centre database. Through this process, the health board has considered hundreds of pieces of national and local clinical guidance.

The service was initially targeted at staff and stakeholders during the first phase of the pandemic but has since evolved to support the wider public on testing and vaccination, ensuring that staff, and the wider public, are informed of how they can manage their own health, have the right support, and contribute to making care successful.

Since the establishment of the Command Centre, Mandy has gone on to lead on the development of the health board’s Single Point of Contact initiative. This service is initially available for certain patient groups (Orthopaedics and ear, nose, and throat (ENT)), and supports patients awaiting surgery. Providing patients with clinical support and well-being advice over the telephone and via email, the service gives patients a single point of contact for advice and guidance should their symptoms deteriorate. The service is also able to signpost patients to online well-being resources in help them to maintain and optimise their health. 

Mandy said: “I am truly humbled and honoured to have been nominated, but I feel this award really goes to the great people I have had the good fortune to work with, and who in many ways, led on the establishment of the Command Centre and our quality improvement journey at Hywel Dda. Without the commitment and understanding of my colleagues, we would not have been able to establish our Communication Hub and Single Point of Contact initiative and our quality improvement work would have ground to a halt as the pandemic hit.

“I owe this award to them, and I now need to think of a way to meaningfully share it with them all. I am extremely grateful for the significant opportunities I have been given throughout my career in the NHS, and particularly by Hywel Dda University Health Board. I encourage all staff to look to develop their career within the NHS and take advantage of the support they will get to take on future challenges and opportunities. I’m also very grateful to my family – their significant and unwavering support, encouragement and patience has meant so much and means that they also need to take a lot of credit for this award.”

Suzanne Tarrant - Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Suzanne trained and worked as a Clinical Psychologist in South Africa before moving back to the UK in 1994 where she worked in inpatient and community Adult Mental Health Psychology Services in South Warwickshire for 10 years. 

She moved with her family to Pembrokeshire in 2003 to work in Pembrokeshire and Derwen NHS Trust (a legacy organisation which is now part of Hywel Dda UHB) and established the Staff Psychological Wellbeing Service the following year. 

Over the years, Suzanne has built a team dedicated to supporting the mental health of all Hywel Dda staff and helping create a culture of wellbeing and resilience across the organisation.

Suzanne said: “The challenges of the pandemic have brought the importance of staff wellbeing into sharp focus. I have a deep appreciation and admiration for how Hywel Dda staff have continued to do their best in such difficult circumstances and over such a long period of time.”

Since the pandemic, the Staff Psychological Well-being Service had to adapt resources and support for staff and teams to be accessible and flexible according to changing circumstances and with a real focus on maintaining rapid access. There has been a steady increase in the number of staff accessing one-to-one psychological support during this time.

A number of new initiatives have helped staff with a key component being to raise awareness and the opportunity for staff to rest and recover and to reflect and change working patterns in ways that support performance and well-being. This has included provision of ecotherapy retreats Recovery in Nature, funded by NHS Charities Together, to bespoke rest and recovery sessions, as well as spaces for listening, webinars and online mindfulness training.

Suzanne said: “My motivation each day is in making a difference, bringing compassion, honesty and understanding to enable people to successfully navigate the ups and downs of working in healthcare. I firmly believe that creating the right working conditions in which staff feel supported and can thrive - enables the delivery of good quality patient care and the best patient experience.”

Suzanne is also a passionate advocate for sustainability, acknowledging how our health and planetary health are inextricably linked.  She has led the development of green health groups in Hywel Dda and set up an innovative ecotherapy programme for staff, focusing on recovery from burnout.  

"I really appreciate and value this award for the recognition it brings of my commitment to staff wellbeing as well as that of my team and colleagues across the Workforce and Organisational Development Directorate," said Suzanne.