Belfast maternity teams hit the jackpot with multiple wins at national awards

on 02 November 2021 Midwifery Midwives Education Midwife Training RCM Annual Midwifery Awards RCM CEO RCM President Research Northern Ireland

Midwives and maternity support workers at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust hit the jackpot, with no fewer than four wins at the annual Royal College of Midwives (RCM) annual awards on 27 October. Staff at the Trust scooped the Thompsons Members' Champion award, the JOHNSON’s Excellence in Midwifery Education, Learning & Research award, a Midwives’ Midwife of the Year award and the prestigious WaterWipes Team of the Year award.

Winning the Thompsons Members' Champion award, Zoe Meneilly was cited for working tirelessly on the welfare of her colleagues and championed the RCM’s Caring for You programme within the trust’s maternity services. She was also instrumental in developing connections with the local university Midwifery Society so that RCM student members were included in branch activities and events.

Clare Mellor, chief executive at Thompsons Solicitors – the social justice law firm that sponsor the award – said: “As a firm that has, as a matter of principle, been acting exclusively for working people and never employers for 100 years, we are immensely proud to be associated with this award.

“At a time of unprecedented challenge for staff in the NHS, people like Zoe play a vital role in helping midwives keep fit and boost morale. Zoe’s tireless commitment to supporting her colleagues in addition to her day job is in the best traditions of trade unionism.”

Susanne Thomas and Patrice McKenna took home the JOHNSON'S Excellence in Midwifery Education, Learning & Research award, having been recognised for their support for newly qualified midwives (NQM) and new midwives at the trust. This involves being supported and mentored by more experienced and senior midwives as they develop more skills, knowledge, and confidence.

Rebecca Bennett at JOHNSON'S said: “Early days for new midwifes, just like the early days for new parents, can have a massive impact on futures, so it was fantastic to hear about this mentoring programme in action, helping to equip new midwives with vital skills and strategies.”

It was a double win for Susanne, who also picked up the Northern Ireland award for Midwives’ Midwife of the Year. Described by colleagues as an inspiring and motivating presence, Susanne worked tirelessly over the pandemic to keep colleagues and the women in their care safe.

Lisa Darrah and Sinead McFarlane picked up the WaterWipes Team of the Year award, representing a social wellbeing and antenatal specialist care team that was created to enhance maternity care provided to vulnerable women in Belfast. Some of the women in their care experience a range of social complexities including gender-based violence, economic disadvantage, substance misuse and women with mental illness or those at risk of experiencing poor mental health.

WaterWipes said: “The award for Team of the Year recognises the exceptional work midwifery and maternity teams around the country do daily. It gives WaterWipes great pleasure to congratulate Lisa Darrah and Sinead Mc Farlane  on the SWAN Team at  Belfast’s Health and Social Care Trust for winning the RCM team of the year 2021 sponsored by WaterWipes! The team at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have shown such commitment to ensuring that high quality midwifery care is available to vulnerable women across Belfast– congratulations to all the SWAN team on a job extremely well done!”

Brenda Kelly, Head of Midwifery at Belfast Trust said: "I am so proud of all our individuals’ winners and for their contribution to a very high performing maternity service which has now been recognised on a UK platform. This success achieved behalf of the whole maternity multi-disciplinary team is all the more significant against the backdrop of the pandemic and all the challenges it has presented the team with. It is a very proud day for Belfast Trust Royal Jubilee Maternity Services."

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said:These midwives are a real credit not only to the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust, but to the profession as a whole. To win one award is an achievement, but to scoop four in a single year is extraordinary and really demonstrates the care, compassion and commitment they all put into their work. There is no doubt that the past two years have been tough. That’s why it’s been so important to come together, to celebrate these fantastic achievements, delivered in spite of a global pandemic.”


To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]

Notes to editors

For more information on the RCM awards and the full list of winners visit RCM Awards 2021.

Zoe Meneilly

Zoe’s colleagues say she has been tireless in her initiatives to make staff feel valued and maintain morale. Events such as a maternity themed Halloween Pumpkinfest, online wellbeing events and quizzes and gifts bags for staff were organised. She has also focused on staff training with online study days. Alongside this and many other activities she also organised sponsored gifts for Christmas and New year babies born at the trust, and charity collections for charities such as Women’s Aid.

Susanne Thomas and Patrice McKenna

To support newly qualified midwives, Susanne and Patrice developed the SMARRT pack which tailors the preceptorships and induction programmes to each individual midwife. This was then adapted further to support midwives returning to the profession after a period away, and for midwives in the trust moving to new areas within it, such as from the maternity unit to community services or the midwife led unit.

Lisa Darrah and Sinead McFarlane

This team has had the courage to face directly the poorest of outcomes and ensure the entire service learns from the tragedies of maternal deaths. They are a fantastic example of a midwife identifying a problem and building a multi-disciplinary solution. Their philosophy of acknowledging women’s strengths rather than their ‘problems’ has led to tangible improvements in access and outcomes for women traditionally at high risk of adverse outcomes.                                                                                                                      

Based on their database of care the SWAN team can demonstrate positive birth outcomes, reduced levels of intervention, reduced hospital stays, increased rates of breastfeeding, reduced stillbirth rates and increased engagement with services Their ultimate aim is to inspire women to make long-term positive changes that affect not only this generation but the next and this is becoming a reality through the positive intervention they have made during pregnancy.

For information on the RCM’s Caring for You campaign see Caring for you hub - home - RCM.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website RCM | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team.