Unsung heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic make up almost a third of the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Felicia Kwaku, 52, an associate director of nursing at King’s College NHS foundation trust, said her OBE was for “fallen colleagues”.
“We saw in March and April that nurses and midwives were dying. For many of us that wasn’t acceptable and we knew we needed to respond in a different kind of way,” said Kwaku, who lost an uncle and also a medical colleague, Dr Alfa Saadu, to the virus.
“So the honour honours all of those who laid their lives down on the line and continued to serve … it’s about my fallen colleagues.”
Kwaku, the chair of the chief nursing officer’s black and minority ethnic strategic advisory group, championed the cause of Filipino nurses disproportionately affected by the pandemic. She described harrowing stories from nurses of not having enough PPE, of masks not fitting “Asian features very well”, and of hearing about colleagues becoming very unwell while working.
Black and minority ethnic nurses and midwives were particularly scared of getting Covid-19, she said. She helped canvass for better risk assessments to make conditions safer. By the end of May, she had counted 77 nurses and midwives who had died. “Barring three or four,” she said, they were all black or Asian.
Jay Flynn, 38, receives an MBE after transferring his weekly pub quiz online and raising more than £750,000. The money is being split between health charities, with a donation also to the homelessness charity Connection, based at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in London, which saved him when he was a street sleeper a decade ago.
The charity’s outreach workers found him on the Victoria Embankment, where he had slept for two years. “My mental health was on its knees by that point,” said Flynn, a married father who lives in Darwen, Lancashire. “They rebuilt from the shell I was.”
The donation will help with costs the charity has incurred housing street sleepers during the pandemic. “I always said when I could and when the opportunity presented itself to me, I would repay a debt I felt that I owed them,” he said.
David Maguire, 62, a Glasgow restauranteur, receives an MBE after providing “significantly more than 100,000” free meals for hospital workers, vulnerable and isolated people and children missing free school meals during lockdown. He said of his nomination that it was “surreal to think that anyone had noticed what we were doing”.
Jolene Miller, 42, a former paramedic turned train driver from Stockton, Co Durham, became a volunteer paramedic caring for critically ill patients while continuing her job with Northern Trains. She arranged with her bosses to work one week on, one week off – “a week on the NHS and a week on the trains”.
She receives a British Empire Medal (BEM). Miller said: “It was tiring, as it was for everyone who is working on the frontline, and I had that week back on the train to recuperate as well, whereas my colleagues in the NHS didn’t have that week to recuperate.”
She added: “The fact that somebody else has nominated me is a big thing.”