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Digital Champion Awards 2021

The first ever Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Digital Champion Awards 2021 have been an absolute triumph!

These awards have been designed to commend and highlight all the positive work and support provided by organisations, services, volunteers, and individuals in the local area. With a focus on acknowledging the use of technology and digital modes to benefit the health and wellbeing of people accessing and engaging with services or support in the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent area.

Local clinicians, organisations, community leaders, support services, volunteers, carers, and service users were invited to apply or nominate someone in the following three categories:

Digital Champion Leader

Digital Champion in the Community

Digital Champion Practitioner

We were overwhelmed by the response and received many fantastic examples of people utilising and implementing digital modes to improve either their own or another’s health and wellbeing. Some of the entrants provided examples of how their organisation had encouraged people to adopt technology to interact and engage with services that could help to improve their health such as accessing apps to control their weight and manage their long-term conditions, whilst others helped to address issues such as social isolation and loneliness by encouraging the use of digital assistants in the home or setting up service users a Zoom account to help them to stay connected throughout the pandemic and the associated restrictions.

View the Awards Evening:

Six local judges were invited to review all the entrants and collectively appoint a winner for each category.

The winners of each category are:

Digital Champion Leader – Caz Gotham, Staffordshire together for carers

In her role as a Carer Community Facilitator/Activities Coach, Caz works alongside and supports local unpaid carers. Caz recently helped to create an animation video intended to assist GP practices and Hospitals to better support and understand carers when formally registering as a carer at either service. The carers experiences and knowledge played an integral part to this project, as a result the animation includes questions that they felt relevant to be asked in these circumstances.

The animation can act as a role play opportunity for frontline staff.

Caz has also helped to connect carers with digital technology and digital assistants by introducing an Alexa device to improve people’s health and wellbeing and has also directly assisted individuals to set up zoom accounts to enable them to stay connected during national lockdown restrictions. Identifying a need she complied a ‘How to guide’ for carers to refer to when using Zoom, this enabled people to connect digitally and helped to reduce social isolation to this community.

Discussing her win Caz said “I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw that I had won the Award for Digital Champion Leader, I was absolutely overwhelmed. This award isn’t just for me but for all my carers who took part in the projects. Winning this award means I can go out into the community and promote digital with confidence and help carers with their digital technology. Thank you to everyone who was involved.”

Digital Champion Practitioner – Sophie Henaughan, Social prescriber at Meir PCN

Sophie has provided digital support and assistance to the local population in a variety of ways in her role as a social prescriber at Meir PCN. Sophie has encouraged the use of health apps, sharing content with patients to help manage their health condition and supported people to lose weight via the Weight loss support programme. Those participating on the innovative programme were supported using an Amazon Alexa device to access virtual exercise groups, read health recipes, maintain a food diary, track their fluid intake, create shopping lists, and set daily reminders.

Sophie also supported patients to better manage their long-term health conditions with the use of the Amazon Alexa. Patients were shown how to set appointment and medication reminders, access live first aid and ask Alexa symptoms and treatment for minor ailments.

On receiving her award Sophie told us, “Winning the Digital Practitioner reward is a real honour and I feel very proud of this achievement. It is another step forward to putting Social Prescribing on the map and to showcase how invaluable Social Prescribing has been to patients within Meir Primary Care, through the utilisation of digital aids. I have been very fortunate to work with Wavemaker and the NHS on a range of projects; especially the provision of Amazon Alexas to patients. The transformation these devices have had on patient’s wellbeing has been tremendous. I look forward to continuing to embed technology within patient care.”

Digital Champion in the Community – Sharon Battiste, Community Connector, Realise Foundation (Aspire Housing).

Sharon works as a Community Connector at the Realise Foundation and has promoted the use of digital technologies for several years, especially with elderly and vulnerable people in the local area. At four independent living schemes Sharon promoted internet training sessions for householders to attend, where internet safety was a priority. The internet sessions also helped people to stay connected with their relatives during the lockdown period which Sharon felt was important. This year Sharon started a fundraising campaign to purchase tablets for people who had no access to a device. The events were a success with over £800 being raised!

Sharon offered an insight into her work and achievements, “I am over the moon winning the Digital Champion awards it means so much, in my role has a Community Connector I am always looking at ways to improve people’s lives in our communities, identifying the things that get in their way and help them overcome them, building resilient and stronger communities. Throughout the pandemic people became more disconnected, scared, and lonely this is the time to bring people together to learn new digital skills to be more confident not to worry about their age or health and believe in themselves anyone of any age can learn digital skills. A big thank you to Realise charity foundation for their support and nominating me for the award”.

The highly commended runners up are:

Digital Champion in the Community 2021 runner-up – Tami Gomes, Savana

Tami has provided support to young people locally in her role as Young Person’s mental health first aider and the project co-ordinator of the new online youth support service Talk to SAL. Talk to SAL is an online platform accessible to young people, parents and carers and offers service users the chance to access a range of downloadable and virtual support. It also features a live chat with SAL service where people can receive advice from SAL practitioners about topics that they may need support with. Tami carried out the initial background support required to get this service running from gathering research at 15 local schools, designing the brand of the service, and launching the website. The research proved beneficial with the findings showing that there was a need for such a service in the local area. In the short time that the Talk to SAL service has been live already 125 users have accessed the service and 232 sessions have allowed people to access online support.

Discussing the awards and the SAL service Tami said, “Thank you for recognising our small team at Talk to S.A.L as a trusted digital resource to support young people within Staffordshire. We feel truly honoured to be highly commended for our hard work in creating and launching the new digital service and are humbled to be selected as runner up for the ‘Digital Champion in the Community’ award.”

Digital Champion in the Community 2021 runner-up – Healthy Generations team at Beth Johnson Foundation

This community-based project has worked closely with people aged 50+ in the North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent area. Helping people to become more digitally aware and included through the numerous technology focused projects they run. Some of the recent work carried out includes, the ‘Tech buddy volunteers’ supporting people to use a digital device, delivering accessible digital health and wellbeing workshops in the local area, and continuing to provide support to the older population during the pandemic via an online programme aimed at helping people to stay connected this also included poetry, art and music focused sessions.

Service users have reported many positive outcomes because of their interaction with the services available at Healthy Generations. This engagement has reportedly reduced levels of social isolation, created an opportunity to socialise, increased people’s confidence to use apps to improve their health and manage health conditions. The services offered have also increased choice and access to health and wellbeing activities through virtual groups.

“For Healthy Generations, being a Digital Champion is about encouraging and inspiring older people to try new digital technologies to help them live a healthy and happy life. We were delighted to be chosen as Highly Commended, and proud to have the work of Healthy Generations and their dedicated Tech Buddy volunteers recognised in such a positive way!” – Amanda Carter, Healthy Generations.

Digital Champion Leader 2021 runner-up – Cheryl Ashman, Leader of in-house learning disability day service teams at Stoke on Trent City Council.

Due to the pandemic the way in which the service was delivered had to change with the team having to embrace new technologies to ensure that their service users were not socially isolated during this time. Cheryl has supported the team in becoming digitally upskilled to ensure that they have an increased knowledge and understanding of the technology they have adopted in their service delivery. Cheryl has also been successful in leading a national bid to obtain 138 tablets for individuals to use. The service has provided a tailored approach by offering easy read documentation to individuals to ensure they could access and better understand the new technology and methods of communication being offered, this in turn has enabled vulnerable individuals to stay connected and access health advice which has helped to avoid a deterioration in their health during an unfamiliar time.

Digital Champion Practitioner 2021 runner-up – Margaret Hurley, Social Prescriber, North Newcastle PCN

In her role as a social prescriber Margaret has worked closely with local individuals experiencing long term health conditions, social isolation and people having difficulties with their mental health. Margaret was also involved in a project that used assistive devices (Amazon Alexa) to facilitate inclusivity, improved health, and reduced social isolation.

People who are referred to Margaret for support are often unaware of the range of opportunities that are available either within their local communities or through relevant support organisations and charities. The individuals benefit from signposting and being made aware of such services and support. Margaret has interacted with her service users in various ways, embracing the use of digital and technology to provide and maintain a service and offer support remotely during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Margaret maintained contact with people using video consultations, signposted using a Facebook page that she had set up, promoted, and supported the use of health apps to help people better self-manage their health conditions. Margaret has helped to support her team members to promote and use digital in their working roles too.

When discussing the Digital Champion awards Margaret said, “It has been a real pleasure to be involved in the move to increase the knowledge and use of digital technologies and to be able to inform and encourage the people, teams and groups I work with to use these. Many thanks to Digihealth and Wavemaker for providing the opportunity to increase my own skills in digital health and assistive technologies! This has added to the range of options that I, and other colleagues in our PCN, can discuss and offer to the people we are supporting”.

From the digihealthwell and Wavemaker teams we want to say a big thank you to everyone involved, helping to make the first Digital Champion Awards a success! We look forward to bringing the awards back next year.

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