Echo readers and patients of Southend Hospital, along with their relatives, have spoken.

After two weeks of nominating the unsung hospital heroes of Southend Hospital, a panel of judges, from both the Echo and hospital, decided on the final short list that is now open to a public vote.

The Echo has teamed up with Southend Hospital for this very special award, the first time a publically voted category has been available in the awards, and are pleased to announce this year’s deserved nominees.

Nominees are highlighted below, along with the reasons given by patients and Echo readers. 

Have a look at the nominees below and then cast your vote here:

Vanessa Byford, a healthcare assistant on Benfleet ward, a stroke unit


Vanessa Byford

Janice Battison, from Basildon, was a patient on the ward and nominated Vanessa for her care, love and compassion.

She said: “Vanessa is a wonderful nurse, is so dedicated and brightens up the ward when she is there. She calmed me down, generally had time for me and answered my questions; to me she is my Florence Nightingale.”

The health care assistant was also nominated on behalf of the whole Cornish family from Leigh-on-Sea.

Lisa Cornish wrote in saying: “My dad, very sadly, has had to be in hospital for the past seven weeks, during that time my family and I have been blown away by the kindness of Vanessa. She is gentle, patient and exceptionally empathetic and nothing is ever too much trouble for her. We have witnessed on several occasions how she interacts with my dad, and it shows she really is in the right profession.

“On one occasion my dad was very upset he hadn’t washed that day, despite due to go off shift in the next 20 minutes, Vanessa sat patiently, listening to my dad’s concerns and then offered to help shower him if it would help ease his worries.

“She works on what I can only imagine is a very challenging ward with patients who are sometimes very ill, yet remains amazingly cheerful and friendly, with a lovely smile on her face every time we have seen her. On behalf of my family we truly believe dad’s difficult time in hospital has been eased by Vanessa’s presence.”

Sarah Haines, specialist nurse for learning disability


Sarah Haines

For years Jane Neale, from Westcliff, has campaigned for fair services on behalf of people with Asperger’s and their families for an organisation called SAFE and after a chance meeting at an event found that Sarah had a common goal.

Jane said: “We got talking and challenged that Asperger’s was not included on the hospital passport and how some found accessing services very difficult. Unlike the majority of people I meet, Sarah never once said that it wasn’t her remit but was genuinely interested in helping with this problem.

“And she’s obviously been working on it as recently my son was able to access tests needed for a suspected heart condition, which with Sarah’s help all went smoothly, without it he would have had a meltdown. At a recent learning disability board at Southend Council she was also able to announce that the hospital now include HFA and Asperger’s in the passport scheme.

Sarah has always been polite, compassionate and caring. She is a true role model and a very positive image for Southend Hospital. I cannot sing her praises enough, she is amazing.

Sarah Barnicoat, Chrissie Gipson and Ann French– the Uro-oncology clinical nurse specialist team


Sarah Barnicoat, Chrissie Gipson and Ann French

The team, supporting those with urological cancers such as bladder and prostate cancer, secured scores of separate nominations to see them make the final three.

Christopher White, from Billericay, commented: “The team go well beyond their job description in ensuring that their patients have all the support and care needed after their diagnosis, throughout their treatment and after care. They are always available at the end of a phone to help with any problems or concerns, however trivial.

“They organise and run specialised courses covering all aspects of after care, essential in coming to terms with prostate cancer and any side effects. They have set up and always attend ‘the cadgers’, a support group for husbands, partners or wives, which holds social meetings once a month.

“Their enthusiasm and support goes well beyond the expectations for their role and is a wonderful support for all those affected by this disease who are under the care of Southend Hospital.”

Melvyn Taylor, from Hockley, added: “The team have always made me feel at ease, explaining to me the different procedures and treatments, so that I understood what was going on and could feel more relaxed and comfortable, gaining confidence about my recovery.

“I’m happy to say that since March 2009 I have been in recovery and regularly enjoy meeting my new friends at various fundraising events at ‘the cadgers club’.

The winner will be announced at Southend Hospital Heroes awards ceremony in September. VOTE HERE: