Chief nurse praises “phenomenal contribution” of graduating healthcare students during Covid


The chief nurse for England’s healthcare training body has praised the “phenomenal contribution” of Birmingham City University students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Mark Radford CBE, Chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Executive at Health Education England, was speaking at the graduation ceremony for students from the University’s Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on Monday 11 July.

Professor Radford, who is also the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, joined hundreds of students celebrating the return of Birmingham City University’s in-person ceremonies this week. Monday’s occasion was the first in a series of graduations taking place throughout July and August and the first face-to-face event of its kind in over two years since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Professor Radford, who graduated from the University as a registered nurse on the BSc programme in 1994, picked up the title of ‘Alumnus of the Year’ at the ceremony for his accomplishments in the field of nursing, particularly his work during the pandemic leading the nation’s Covid-19 NHS vaccine workforce programme.

Collecting his award, Professor Radford, who also received a CBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours List, said:

Since qualifying, Professor Radford has worked in clinical, leadership and academic roles across the UK. He returned to Birmingham City University to undertake postgraduate study in advanced nursing practice, before going on to complete a PhD and is now a Visiting Professor of Nursing at the University.

Professor Radford oversaw the recruitment and training of thousands of clinicians, volunteers, and support staff during the Covid-19 NHS vaccine workforce programme, in one of the fastest programmes of its kind in the world.

He added:

“This pandemic has exposed many already existing injustices and inequalities in our society but it has also inspired a new generation of people to enter the healthcare professions. Those of us working in the field can, and must, use our positions to improve health outcomes for all. I know those students whose experience has been shaped by the pandemic will have the passion and commitment to bring about such a change.”

Professor Ian Blair, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences at Birmingham City University, said: “It seems fitting that the first in-person graduation ceremonies since the outbreak of Covid have been for our health and education students, many of whom, as Professor Radford acknowledged, were working at the front line on placement during the pandemic.

“Our students have demonstrated tremendous resilience and the experience of the last two and a half years, while no doubt challenging, will I’m sure stand them in very good stead as they now embark on the next stage of their career. I congratulate them all on their success.” 

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