UCLH welcomes the President of Ireland during first ever state visit 

09/04/2014 00:00 
The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, visited UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) today (April 9) as part of the first official visit to the UK by an Irish head of state.

The President and his wife visited University College Hospital in London to pay tribute to the work of the Irish in the NHS. The visit came less than 24 hours after the couple were welcomed to Windsor Castle by the Queen.

Accompanied by his wife, Mrs Sabina Higgins, the President was met by The Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, and Sir Robert Naylor, UCLH chief executive and Richard Murley, UCLH chairman.

Alongside other Irish dignitaries they were given a tour of the hospital’s Elderly Medicine Ward and the Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit as part of their three-day visit to the UK. The President then met around 20 Irish members of staff from UCLH, including doctors, nurses, consultants and senior managers to thank them for their work.

Sir Robert Naylor, UCLH chief executive said: “It was a huge honour for UCLH to be chosen for this visit by the President of Ireland - and even more so when you consider that this was the first ever Irish state visit to the UK.

“We are incredibly proud of our multicultural workforce and our Irish colleagues play an integral part in making this one of the leading trusts in the NHS. I hope we were able to demonstrate to the President some of the outstanding work we do at University College Hospital and the contribution our Irish staff make.”

The President visited the 38-bed elderly medicine unit where he was shown around by matron Josie Gladney, originally from St Mullins, County Carlow, and ward sister Sharon Lynagh, from Athboy, County Meath.

Josie said: “When people told me the President of Ireland was coming to University College Hospital I thought they were playing a joke on me. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and makes me really proud to be Irish, really proud of my heritage and really proud to show the President the great place where I work and the great work that we do at UCLH.”

Sharon added: “It’s massive recognition for the Irish people who work at UCLH and the NHS as a whole. It’s a real honour for the health service and for nurses.”
After visiting the elderly medicine unit, the President toured the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU), one of the eight London hyper acute stroke ‘hubs’ that provide 24/7 care for all patients presenting with new stroke.

Benchmarking data compiled across selected hospitals in Europe, North America and Australia indicates that the mortality rates and readmission rates for the UCLH HASU are amongst the lowest in the world.

Mike Patterson, an intensive care consultant, only joined UCLH three months ago. He was born in Belfast but his mother is from the Republic of Ireland. Mike said: “I am Northern Irish, Irish and British – for me the President’s visit is hugely significant. It is great to see the Irish diaspora being recognised in this way.”


Meet some of UCLH’s Irish staff…

EamonnMike Patterson, intensive care consultant. Originally from Belfast.

Mike has worked for the NHS in London for ten years and is UCLH’s newest consultant having joined three months ago.

He said: “This is where I’ve come across the most Irish people across all sorts of specialities and disciplines. From porters, nurses and lab technicians to admin staff, doctors and consultants.”

When one of Mike’s patients recently awoke after an operation he was seen by a Dublin-born registrar and two of his consultants were Irish, as were two nurses who helped him.

"When I came to see him in the evening – he asked me if had he been kidnapped and transferred to Ireland," laughed Mike.

“Historically Irish people are really aware of our heritage. The modern Irish immigration experience is one of people who are driven, ambitious and want to spread their wings. People all over the world are very proud to be Irish but have integrated themselves completely into the cultural environment they have ended up in.”

EamonnPat O’Brien, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. Born in Cork.

Pat was the consultant who delivered Cork woman Angie Benhaffaf’s conjoined twins, Hassan and Hussein, at University College Hospital four years ago.

“I was the obstetrician. The neonatal nurse, Mary Dinan, was from Cork; Mae Nugent, the practice development nurse, was from Armagh and the surgeon, Edward Kiely, who separated the twins at Great Ormond Street was from Cork so it made everybody feel at home.

“There is such a mix of cultures and origins at UCLH and that’s what makes it a fantastic place to work.”

EamonnJosie Gladney, matron on the elderly medicine unit. Originally from St Mullins, County Carlow.

Josie said: “People love the Irish accent and they instantly feel it’s somebody who cares for them, is compassionate and will listen to them. They feel instantly reassured.”

EamonnHelen O’Toole, lead nurse pre-registration education. Born in Co. Galway

Helen said: “What’s great about working in the NHS in London is you meet people from all over the world. It’s such a multicultural society, where you have the opportunity to learn about other cultures and work as part of a team.

EamonnElizabeth McBrinn, senior paediatric and adolescent physiotherapist. Born in Co. Dublin

Elizabeth’s mum was also a physiotherapist in London before moving back to Ireland. She said: “When my mum knew I was coming to a hospital with such a high level of expertise she said: ‘Take full advantage, go to every single course on offer and enjoy London as well!”

EamonnKieran Mc Daid, director of estates. From Strabane

Kieran joined UCLH five years ago to deliver the new University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre and now heads up the estates and facilities function.
"Meeting President Higgins is a great honour that signifies the enormous ties between our two countries. The Irish community are woven through the very DNA of UCLH and we are all very proud to be part of this great institution"

EamonnBernadette Porter, consultant nurse multiple sclerosis. Originally from Donegal

Bernadette has worked in the NHS for over 20 years.

’I trained in Dublin, and moved to London to specialise in neurology nursing at the world famous National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, part UCLH.

“At one stage there were over 30 Irish nurses from both the North and the Republic working in the Neurology & Neurosurgery division, I have enjoyed some great training opportunities and have made many friends from all walks of life over the years.”

EamonnEamonn Sullivan, UCLH deputy chief nurse, originally from Waterford.

“You will find hundreds of people from Ireland at UCLH – from the chief executive’s PA right through to consultants, nurses, therapists and matrons. But it’s not just about healthcare professionals – Irish people touch all parts of the organisation including admin and managerial staff.

“At UCLH we have nurses from right across the World and that perspective of having nurses from lots of different backgrounds is great for our patients. It reflects the diversity of our patients and makes it much, much richer and more powerful.”

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