Published on: 12 April 2021

A community matron from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has been honoured through a national awards programme that recognises nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants who inspire those they work with and show exceptional care to patients and their families.

Denise Slark, a Matron for the Trust’s Community Team in Sunderland, is now the proud holder of the Cavell Star Award after she was nominated by the Trust’s Older Person’s Team.

Denise has worked in the NHS for almost 39 years; joining the Trust in 2013 as a Palliative Care Safe Care Lead at St Benedict’s Hospice. Her current role as Matron involves leading five of the Trust’s Community Integrated Teams across Sunderland. These teams were integral to the successful roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme across the city, helping to vaccinate eligible care home residents and staff and housebound patients across Sunderland.  The Trusts community-based health services were also rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care and Quality Commission (CQC) when they undertook a full inspection in early 2020.

Commenting on her award, Denise said: “I feel truly overwhelmed and honoured at being nominated for this award - it was a complete surprise! There is no doubt that the last year has been exceptionally challenging for our community teams, but leading my teams to make a difference for our patients and provide the highest standards of care is what I love most about this job.

“I am so proud to work alongside my teams. They are an amazing group of professionals who consistently go above and beyond to care for some of the most vulnerable members of the local population and that is what makes them truly outstanding.”

Adam Remmer, who nominated Denise for the award, said: “The Older Persons Team nominated Denise for her continuous commitment to our team and patients. During the pandemic Denise has raised standards even higher and consistently made sure our team were well supported and encouraged throughout.

“She is truly an inspirational leader, most recently leading us to carry out COVID-19 vaccinations across the community for which we even had a mention from the Prime Minister. Her Cavell Star Award is thoroughly deserved.”

Melanie Johnson, Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “The Cavell Star Award is an excellent way to celebrate our nurses who go above and beyond every day for their patients and colleagues.

“I am incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication that our community nursing teams have demonstrated and it’s fantastic to see that Denise has been recognised for her exceptional leadership during one of the most challenging years the NHS has ever seen.”

The charity Cavell Nurses’ Trust launched the Cavell Star Awards in 2018 in partnership with LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare. Nursing and midwifery teams throughout the UK are encouraged to nominate a special teammate who has shown exceptional care for either their colleagues or their patients and patients’ families. Each Cavell Star Award winner receives a medal, presentation case and pin badge. 

John Orchard, Chief Executive at Cavell Nurses’ Trust, said: “Cavell Nurses’ Trust is here for nurses when they’re in a crisis, so we are really excited that the Cavell Star Award is proving so successful at boosting morale for nursing and midwifery teams working extremely hard in very challenging situations.”

Healthcare professionals wishing to nominate a nurse, midwife or healthcare assistant for a Cavell Star Award can find out more at