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Posted on the 12th May 2021

A ‘dedicated’ nurse with ‘tremendous drive’ was ‘bowled over’ when she was presented with a national Chief Nursing Officer Award at an International Nurses’ Day event.

On hand to present the top accolade was Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England, Ruth May.

She surprised Maria Nelligan, Chief Nursing Officer at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft), when she joined the virtual event being hosted for staff.

While Maria, who is passionate about improving the professional standing of nurses, had been involved in the meticulous planning of the event, she was unaware that her colleagues had been secretly working behind the scenes on the surprise.

And she was left speechless as it unfolded with guest speaker Andrea Sutcliffe, CEO of the NMC also in attendance.

Following the event, Maria, who was has clocked up more than 30 years as a hard working nurse and ‘dynamic leader’ said: “To receive the Chief Nursing Officer Award really does mean such a lot to me.

“I have long said that being a nurse is a fantastic privilege – one I am incredibly proud of.

“I have enjoyed a fantastic career and a fantastic personal life – meeting my husband while I was training to be a nurse. My daughter is also in her last year as a student nurse – we like to call it the family business!”

She added: “I’m bowled over and so delighted that Ruth took the time to present the award – it really has been some year!”

Chief Executive at the Trust, Caroline Donovan, nominated Maria for the award – honouring her ‘outstanding career’ with the NHS.

She said: “Maria has been a Learning Disability Nurse for more than 30 years – demonstrating tremendous drive, energy and enthusiasm throughout her nursing career.

“Maria has always championed a collaborative approach with service users and the voluntary and private sectors – she has been driven by continuously improving care for those who need it.

“It was very apt that she should receive this award during our very first Thank You Week – honouring the efforts of all of our incredible staff during the Covid pandemic.”

Maria’s impressive leadership led her to becoming Executive Director of Nursing and Quality at North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust (NSCHT) in 2015.

There, she helped to inspire the nursing workforce to deliver high quality, person centred care and contributed to NSCHT going from ‘Requiring Improvement’ by CQC to ‘Outstanding.’

Not content with her contribution there, she moved to LSCft in 2019 to support the transformation of the Trust.

Presenting the award at the event on Tuesday (May 11), Ruth May said of Maria’s achievements: “Today is about me saying my personal thanks to you.

“I know that you are the driving force behind a number of really important initiatives and one thing that is often described about you is your dynamic leadership – I absolutely know that is true.

“For me, it is also your passion for improving lives – particularly for those with learning disabilities and or Autism – thank you!”

Also sneaked in to the event was Maria’s proud husband and her colleagues from LSCft.

You can watch a video of the surprise here: