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Top honour for nurse who turned around maternity department

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:29 23 July 2019

Wendy Matthews OBE, former deputy chief nurse and director of midwifery at Barking, Redbrige and Havering NHS Trust, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of East London. Picture: UEL

Wendy Matthews OBE, former deputy chief nurse and director of midwifery at Barking, Redbrige and Havering NHS Trust, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of East London. Picture: UEL

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A hospital director who turned around "one of the worst midwifery departments" in the UK has received a university's top honour.

UEL chancellor Shabir Randeree conferred the title upon Wendy at an ExCeL London ceremony. Picture: UELUEL chancellor Shabir Randeree conferred the title upon Wendy at an ExCeL London ceremony. Picture: UEL

Wendy Matthews OBE, former deputy chief nurse and director of midwifery at Barking, Redbrige and Havering NHS Trust, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of East London (UEL) for her services to nursing.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony on Thursday, Wendy said: "I feel so honoured to be here and to have been awarded this honorary doctorate.

"Always remember to support one another, look after each other, work collaboratively, embrace diversity and check in frequently with one another."

UEL chancellor Shabir Randeree conferred the title upon Wendy at an ExCeL London ceremony where she told graduates communication is the key to success.

Wendy with her husband Ken Matthews on the right and son Zac. Picture: UELWendy with her husband Ken Matthews on the right and son Zac. Picture: UEL

She said: "Pressures at work and home are huge in today's society, affecting not only physical but mental health. The power of wellbeing can never be underestimated in improving health."

Wendy was awarded an OBE for services to midwifery in 2018, in recognition of improvements to the trust's maternity department.

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She said: "I was diagnosed with breast cancer, just after I had been successful in getting a new job as director of nursing.

"I wasn't going to give up and after receiving six months' worth of treatment, which included a lengthy surgery and radiotherapy, I was back into work."

She was born in Rochford and attended Ursuline Grammar in Brentwood. From a young age she knew a nine to five office job wasn't for her.

In 1984 she qualified as a nurse moving to St Margaret's Hospital in Epping. The hands-on experience gained there helped with her decision to pursue midwifery.

Wendy took a job at the trust as director of midwifery in 2012 when it was delivering 10,000 babies each year across two hospital sites and which was, in Wendy's words, considered one of the worst maternity units in the country.

Her friends and colleagues thought she was "mad" for wanting to work there, but Wendy was excited.

She said: "I was determined to make a change."

Within three years, Wendy and her team transformed a service criticised as "failing" by the Care Quality Commission hospitals watchdog into a service rated as "good".

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