Breakfast television star Dr Hilary Jones praised the “unsung heroes” of the health service at an awards night in Lowestoft.
The TV doctor on Good Morning Britain hosted the inaugural Kingsley Care Awards at The Ivy House Country Hotel in Oulton Broad.
Nearly 150 staff from Lowestoft-based care provider Kingsley Healthcare were joined by special guests who included Waveney MP Peter Aldous, district council chairman Bruce Provan, EDP editor Nigel Pickover and leading figures from the healthcare sector.
Senior figures from Coutts, Santander and Barclays Bank, who are supporting the dementia care specialist’s £200m-plus expansion drive to become a familiar national brand, were also present at the event on Thursday.
Dr Jones, who presents health topics to a television audience of millions, said it had been a “privilege and honour to be invited to the awards”.
He said: “I know as a GP all the unrecognised work so many workers do in care homes. For me they are the unsung heroes.
“They do so much dedicated work with so much of a warm heart and they get little recognition for it. They keep the health service going.
“Often their financial rewards are very small and they do it for the love – and in a civilized society we absolutely need that.”
Kingsley CEO Daya Thayan told the awards gathering that his 1,200 staff had become his family – three decades after he had left his parents behind in Sri Lanka to start a new life in England.
He said: “It is very important to know that Kingsley is a company that was started by my wife Sumi and I here in Lowestoft 16 years ago with one home employing 20 staff.
“Today we have got 24 homes and another three homes are about to join us.”
He said they were very proud of their Lowestoft roots and their continuing commitment to the town was shown by their investment in new town centre offices – the former Suffolk County Council owned Clapham House – into which they would be moving next summer from their present HQ in School Road.
Mr Thayan said: “Kingsley wants to be part of the community here; we really want to be a company that can provide some relief to people seeking new opportunities as the UK offshore gas industry is having a bad time now.”
He said the fast-growing care industry was a path that many young people may not have considered – and yet it offered pay and opportunities comparable to any industry.
Mr Thayan said their aim was to become a leading East Anglian employer but throughout their expansion across England – “to become double our present size” - they would continue to put their ethics and values at the forefront of everything they did.
Joining the debate about the national living wage, he described it as an opportunity “to redress our social responsibilities to our hard-working employees and pay them a wage that are able to live on”.
However, he added: “I do share concerns raised about the impact on the care sector and would urge the government to look at funding gaps in the industry.
“Our staff do an incredible job and deserve a living wage but it must be properly funded.”
The flagship Care Home of the Year award went to Kingsley’s Colne House, in Colchester, while Manager of the Year went to Wendy Jack, home manager at Decoy Farm in Browston near Great Yarmouth.
Entertainment on the night was provided by comic operatic group, The Three Waiters and a spoof on the office with Ricky Gervais lookalike Tim Oliver.
Kingsley Care Awards Winners.
Directors Award for Operational Experience: Carley Rawlinson
Directors Award for Loyal Service: Jill Harris
Registered Nurse of the Year: Lorand Pataki
Support Worker of the Year: Nicola Simmons
Care Home Support Service Champion: Tania Amies
Care Home Business Support Champion: Leanne Chesney
Chef of the Year: Alan Pells
Hummingbird Award for the Ultimate Wings Champion (Dementia care): Helen Gosling and Allison Edwards
The Rising Star: Katherine Ardley
Motivational Leadership: Jamie Sales
Head Office Star: James Guest
Manager of the Year: Wendy Jack
Care Home of the Year: Colne House, Essex
Kingsley Personality of the Year: Kim Mairs
Author: Stephen Pullinger