Two nurses from south east London have been honoured for their "outstanding contribution to nursing" after being named as the winners of this year's Rising Star Awards.

Grace Milner from Bromley and Deon Irozuru from Thamesmead, both at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, said they were "proud" and "excited" to be chosen as a winner.

The awards are part of the Royal College of Nursing London's celebrations for Black History Month. They recognise excellence in patient care, innovation, and leadership from London’s Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) nursing community.

Grace, a clinical nurse specialist for plasma cell disorders, said it was "an honour" to accept the award after working help transform services at the trust.

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"Throughout my career I have strived and continue to raise the profile and give a voice to those with a rare blood cancer that disproportionally effects members within our community.

“Using my position in the Trust and wider community, I have worked to help transform the service we provide to ensure accessibility and visibility for all. I am proud to be a nurse and work within Guy’s and St Thomas’, and promote equality and representation through my practice.”

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Deon, a staff nurse in the endoscopy unit, said: “I was so excited when I was informed that I was chosen as one of the winners of this award and I am glad to have such recognition for doing something I dearly love and has become second nature to me.

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“It’s great to be rewarded for the role I played in response to the pandemic. Being redeployed to support my fellow colleagues both on the ward and in my department was unforeseen, but I was willing to step into the role and do whatever was required of me during these testing times."

RCN London said they received more nominations than ever in 2020, a year that has seen nursing at the forefront of London’s response to COVID-19.

This year’s winners were recognised for giving a voice to staff and patients, for empowering themselves or encouraging others to take action, and for showing compassion, innovation, and leadership.

London Mayor Sadiq Kahn commented: "I want to congratulate all the winners for their outstanding work in providing compassionate and innovative healthcare to Londoners.

“Nursing staff from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds have played a crucial role in caring for Londoners during this incredibly challenging year, and it’s vital that we celebrate their work.

"They are an inspiration to us all and I hope their work encourages even more Londoners into nursing.”

RCN Regional Director for London, Lisa Elliott, said: “Our Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic nursing community play a vital role in caring for Londoners.

"The expertise and professionalism shown by our Rising Stars represent nursing care at its best as well as demonstrating the unique contribution our BAME nursing community in London makes.

“However, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that there is still a huge amount of work to do to ensure our nursing colleagues from BAME backgrounds have the same opportunities as others.

"RCN London is committed to taking a leading role in promoting the voice of the BAME nursing community in the capital and challenging employers where poor practice exists.”