The MyPorter Awards are now live and open for nominations once again – and this year were relaunched in special circumstances with the meeting of two people whose connection to one award in particular made for an emotional afternoon. The black and white of Newcastle and the red and white of Sunderland are often seen as great rivals, with usually no love lost between the two – that is until a joyous meeting between two souls with common interests, brought together by a national award and the loss of their beloved spouses. When Keith Bellfield of Sunderland Royal Hospital was nominated for the ‘Dennis Southern Award – For Endeavour’ at the last annual MyPorter Awards, a national awards celebrating the best of the best in NHS Portering Services, judges could not help but be extremely impressed. Keith showed everything that a worthy winner should and more: Sadly, Keith’s wife Angela (who also worked at Sunderland Royal Hospital) passed away from lung cancer, leaving him to have to make the difficult decision between keeping his much-loved portering job which he has been in for 35 years, and the time needed to care for his son Christopher, who has special needs. The award which Keith won is named after Dennis Southern – a well-known and well-loved porter at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, who sadly lost his battle with a rare cancer in 2021, just two weeks before he was nominated for the MyPorter Award 2020/21. He was nominated due to the fantastic work he did there as a porter, always putting the patient first despite his own personal battles with illness. That is when judges chose to honour Dennis by creating a new award category in his name for the 2021/22 event. An awards ceremony took place in February 2022 in central London, but unfortunately neither Keith or Dennis Southern’s widow Jan could make the event, so GV Healthcare who run the MyPorter Awards decided to arrange a private event with special lunch for the pair and their sons; Barry accompanying Jan, and Christopher accompanying Keith. This allowed Jan Southern the opportunity to meet the man who is the first ever winner of the award named in her late husband’s honour; an emotional heart-warming encounter which fetched moving moments that brought a tear to Jan’s eye. Jan said: “It was really nice to meet Keith – having heard why he was nominated and about the personal loss he has also suffered, I believe he is a very worthy winner of an award named in my late-husband’s honour. Keith is very deserving of this award and I’m proud to have been part of this occasion. It’s been a lovely day and has felt really special, like two old friends meeting and chatting over mutual experiences we share”. Matt Wright, CEO at GV Healthcare said: “We were sad that neither Jan or Keith could make the MyPorter Awards ceremony, but were delighted to be able to unite Tyneside and Wearside with a nice meal at a private event – we hope it felt as special to them as they deserve. Our HQ is based in Hull and with us being based in a city that is also split between the black and whites and the red and whites too (albeit with a different shaped ball), we know rivalry can be passionate, but the love for portering, the NHS and their loved ones shone through – sometimes sporting discord is put into perspective and events like this show life is precious and moments like this matter”.
Keith’s nomination for the award from his management praised him by saying they know many who would have chosen to give up the role and take on full-time caring responsibilities, but Keith chose to ask to take on a new role, switching to being a waste porter, allowing him the flexibility to remain in a role within the portering service, while also giving him the necessary time to look after Christopher. Although it was a different role and working with a different group of colleagues, Keith quickly adapted and built up a huge knowledge of waste regulations and the segregation demands of the health sector. Keith also looked at the processes in the department with a fresh pair of eyes and was integral in suggesting improvement to the ways of working, benefitting both the service and the waste team. Keith was also praised for taking others under his wing and mentoring them – someone who goes about his job, never complaining, always greeting co-workers, patients and staff with a smile. One of the friendliest people his colleagues know, he’s known as a walking encyclopedia of portering knowledge, passing on his wisdom, and often seen assisting others with their tasks alongside his own. Back in winter he was even spotted by staff out in a snowy blizzard, helping a contractor load waste bins onto a lorry to ensure the driver wasn’t delayed by the conditions. Keith’s efforts not only benefit the entire department, but they also set an example and inspire his co-workers to stay proactive. Despite the overwhelming amount of work that everyone has had to do and the impact of the ongoing pandemic and Keith’s personal circumstances, he consistently finds ways to help his co-workers and other departments. His willingness to assist others and his commitment to educating and supporting new staff is unequalled. Keith’s Manager Mark Turner said: “I have worked with Keith for over 22 years from when I first joined the NHS as a Porter. From day one Keith was friendly and welcoming and always on hand to answer any questions I had about my new role. With him having a vast knowledge of the Portering role I was able to learn from him some of the more technical tasks of the role such as the handling and changing of medical gasses and the distribution of pharmacy. As my career progressed and I became Keith's Supervisor and eventually his manager, he couldn't have been more encouraging and supportive to me in my new roles. Keith is an outstanding employee and a credit to my team and the organisation" If you know somebody within your hospital portering teams who you think reminds you of Keith, the nominations are now open for The Dennis Southern – Lifetime Achievement Award - For Endeavour, along with the five other categories, including the MyPorter Porter of the Year Award and the Portering Team of The Year award. Know someone deserving of this highest recognition? You can nominate now at: https://www.myporterlogistics.com/