New Year Honours: Health workers rewarded for leading fight against Covid

A host of health workers from Northern Ireland have been honoured by the Queen following a year in which they have led the fight against the Covid pandemic.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 10:30 pm
Updated Saturday, 1st January 2022, 12:37 am

Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health Richard Pengelly said he is absolutely thrilled to be made a Commander of the Order of the Bath, an honour which he regards as recognition of the work of so many people in the health service.

The 2022 New Year Honours list also includes 85-year-old Jimmy Chapman, a porter at Lisburn Health Centre, who receives a British Empire Medal (BEM), and Dr Wendy Anderson, a respiratory consultant at the Northern Trust, who is made an MBE.

Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson is to receive an MBE for services to the community while illustrator Oliver Jeffers picks up an MBE for services to the arts.

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Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health Richard Pengelly

The biggest sporting names on the New Year Honours list are gold-medal winning paralympian Bethany Firth, who is awarded an OBE for services to swimming, and another OBE goes to Jonathan Rea – already an MBE – for services to motorcycling.

Mr Pengelly, husband of DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly, told of the moment he found out he was to become a CB: “My eldest son graduated just at the start of lockdown in early 2020 in Salford but his ceremony was postponed and postponed.

“It was rescheduled for November 30. I was in the departure lounge at the (Belfast) City Airport for my first flight in two years when my phone pinged, and it was the email from the Cabinet Office (about the honour). It was the icing on the cake of a wonderful couple of days getting over to see my son’s graduation.

“This has been the most challenging role I have ever held, constantly pressurised, constantly difficult, but the high moments are so high in terms of some of the achievements, when we actually roll out a new service or make some inroads, because of the impact it has on people’s lives.

Kenny Donaldson who has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the community in Northern Ireland in the New Year honours list.

“You’re working with so many professionals who have dedicated a lifetime to studying, achieving professional excellence – it really is a leadership role rather than a doing role, trying to harness the huge potential of 65,000 people across our health and social care system.

“I have spent a lot of time trying to get out and around the system, to hospitals, GP practices, community services, and every single time I go out I come away humbled by the compassion, dedication and just sheer effort of colleagues at all levels across the system.

“Sometimes there is a lazy narrative that health and social care is really about the doctors and nurses, and the doctors and nurses are absolutely fantastic and I hold them in the highest regard, all our allied health professionals, our porters, the catering and cleaning staff, the administrators, finance, HR, they are all part and parcel of that continuum of health care.

“Hopefully part of this award is recognition for those people that maybe aren’t in the spotlight, but without them we wouldn’t provide healthcare.”

Bethany Firth wins the gold medal during the women's 100m Backstroke at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in 2021. Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Dr Anderson, who works in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust is to be made an MBE for her work during the pandemic.

She said: “I work with a fantastic team of respiratory colleagues, a team of seven in Antrim and nine if you include Causeway. When this was coming, we all worked on our protocols and stepped up our weekends and everybody had everybody’s back and in the end we are solider than we were at the beginning.

“But if you’re talking about the burden of it, the emotional burden of it landed largely on nursing staff.

“They were in the bays with patients, some patients who might be dying without relatives, other patients who were trying to wear respiratory support which is uncomfortable and claustrophobic when they were breathless, and talking them into wearing that because it would help. Definitely the nurses took the worst of it.

Jonathan Rea has been made an OBE for services to motorcycling

“Coming in to work in high dependency areas with low dependency staffing, in normal times those areas might be staffed a nurse to two patients – it was much less than that during the pandemic, and they just kept coming in.

“It has been a challenging time but also a time when you do bond. It is like a war, you bond to people you constantly work with and that have your back and help you with the problems.”

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