This year’s Gazette and Eve magazine Best Of Health Awards were the biggest and best ever.
Now in their fifth year, the annual awards aim to recognise excellence, dedication and innovation in health professionals, but also to honour those who care in the voluntary sector.
We asked readers of The Gazette – through our Eve supplement – to nominate people who they felt had made an outstanding contribution, gone the extra mile, or done something above and beyond the call of duty.
And the public certainly responded with heart-warming tales of people who truly understand the meaning of care - in all senses of the word.
The glittering ceremony gave recognition to everyone; from a dedicated pharmacist, who has served the community for 30 years, and an optician who spotted a patient had viral meningitis, to a caring nurse who looked after families as well as patients and a Good Samaritan who spends her spare time helping friends and neighbours.
Close to 300 guests attended the grand event, hosted by Radio Wave’s Ged Mills and Roy Lynch, at The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool.
After a sparkling drinks reception, with singing by the choir from Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Teaching Hospitals, the winners in the 11 categories were announced and presented with their trophies and certificates.
Guests tucked into a three-course meal and enjoyed entertainment by singer Josh Adams.
A raffle was held, with prizes donated by Guy’s Thatched Hamlet, the Imperial Hotel, De Vere Golf Resort, The Gazette, The Flower Barrow of Poulton, and Merlin Entertainments - which raised £700 for Brian House Hospice.
The star of the night was undoubtedly 94-year-old Eunice Nicholls, who received a standing ovation, as she was presented with her award as Carer of The Year.
She had spent years caring for her husband, who was diagnosed with dementia.
The Gazette’s deputy editor Andy Sykes said: “I have long thought we do not do enough to thank, let alone honour, our health champions – which is strange, as we all know one.
“This is really what The Gazette’s Best Of Health Awards are – a chance for Gazette readers and the community to say a big thank you to those who really care.
“I want to thank our judges – retired cardiothoracic surgeon Ramesh Gandhi and Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who together with Gazette editor Gillian Parkinson, faced the difficult task of whittling down the short-list from all the nominations.
“The Gazette – and our friends at Radio Wave–- have long championed the people of Blackpool and I think as people’s time becomes more stretched and never-ending Government budget cuts threaten the ability of our health heroes to do the job they hold dear, we should shout their achievements from the rooftops more than ever.”
Dr Zuber Bagasi, from the awards’ main sponsor, Synergy Dental Care, said: “It gives me great pleasure to sponsor the Best Of Health Awards. What an amazing job The Gazette has done at making this like the Oscars.
“The Best of Health Awards give us the opportunity to recognise the hard work of my colleagues in healthcare - at times it can be a challenging environment to work in.
“We are all passionate about what we do and providing the highest quality care and treatment we can. For me, helping patients to look and feel better is my absolute passion.
“Synergy Dental started in Blackpool in 2007 on Central Drive. Originally, there was zero patients - just me and my only dental nurse.
“Now eight years on, we provide a range of dental treatment, facial aesthetics and hair implantation - with clinics in Blackpool, Birmingham, Bolton, Bury, Farnworth, Ormskirk and Preston.
“I have been lucky enough to win the Best Of Health Dentist Of The Year Award, two years running, with the help of my amazing team.
“We believe in giving back to the community - in fact we are working with Blackpool Council and Rotary on a toothbrush scheme for pre-school children.
“Let’s continue to support each other, to improve our local care services and do wonderful work in the community.”
Nurse Of The Year, sponsored by Spire Fylde Coast Hospital
Ella Dodgson, community heart failure nurse
Midwife Of The Year, sponsored by Blackpool Stop Smoking Service
Jenny Clarke, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Elderly Welfare, sponsored by Whitworth Pharmacy
Blackpool Dementia Support Team
Carer Of The Year, sponsored by Interserve Healthcare
Eunice Nicholls, devoted wife and carer
Unsung Hero, sponsored by Specsavers
Karen Baxter, a good Samaritan from Cleveleys
Best Of Health Judges special recognition award, sponsored by Spiral Health
Broadway Medical Centre, Fleetwood
Doctor Of The Year, sponsored by Synergy Dental Clinic
Dr Helen Saunders, consultant anaesthetist, and Dr Michael Zaryckyj, former GP from Park Medical Practice, St Annes
Therapist Of The Year
Dentist Of the Year
Pui-Ling Tsoi, Ideal Dental Care, Fleetwood
Optician Of The Year
Philip Harper and the team, at Tesco Opticians, Marton
Kimberley Weddle, Squirrel Nutkins Nursery, Cleveleys
Pharmacist Of The Year
John Melling, Melling Pharmacy, St Annes