THREE inspirational North-East health workers passionate about making a difference in their communities and beyond are being celebrated in a new health campaign.

By showcasing the stories of medics around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Health Legends initiative highlights the growing importance of global health in keeping people safe.

Jan Foster-Taylor is an advanced nurse practitioner at a busy GP surgery in Bishop Auckland and has battled coronavirus twice since the start of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, Dehenna Davison, MP for Bishop Auckland, awarded her an Unsung Hero award following a number of nominations from local residents for her work at Auckland Medical Group and volunteering to be seconded into a frontline role at Bishop Auckland Hospital.

Jan said: “Two of my daughters also work in the NHS, another is studying to be a counsellor and my son is a firefighter.

“I was determined that I was going to be there on the frontline beside them.

“It was a very emotional time for everyone and some of the patients were people that I knew personally. All the staff were determined that we would be there for patients when their loved ones couldn’t and there was always one of us with them so that no one died alone. I hope that this brought their families some comfort.

“When I tested positive myself, I was worried - both times. But I also knew I had the best healthcare around me to get me through it, something that people in other parts of the world may not have.

“Improving health for all is very important to me and was one of the reasons I became a nurse.

“Growing up, I experienced first-hand the challenges that poverty can bring.

“Sadly, I still see their effects in our communities today and the health inequalities that they can cause. Covid-19 has been a reminder to us all that we must work together to improve health everywhere if we are to keep our communities safe.”

Future paramedic, Lauren Wilkinson, joined the St John Ambulance cadet programme at her local unit in Burnopfield when she was 15 and started volunteering as a first aider.

As well as helping to save a life at the Great North Run, she joined the Newcastle ‘Booze Bus’ team helping keep people safe in Newcastle City Centre.

To gain further experience, she took part in volunteer placements at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and at an eye hospital in Jerusalem.

The former Derwentside College student is now studying paramedic science at Sunderland University.

Lauren, who lives in Stanley, said: “I knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but I wasn’t sure in what way and so I thought the St John Ambulance Cadets programme would be a good way to find out.

“As well as first aid, I also learned lots of other skills such as communicating with patients. It was a great experience to be involved in big regional events, like concerts and the Great North Run, and to feel you were helping give something back to the community. One year, I was part of the team that helped to save a man’s life when he collapsed.

“Training other young people in first aid skills is also really rewarding, especially when they come back and tell you how a skill you taught them has made a difference to someone else.

“I wanted to find out more about healthcare around the world and so I applied for work placements in the Dominican Republic and at an eye hospital in Jerusalem.

“In the Dominican Republic, I worked in an orphanage and a hospital. It made me realise how I had often taken the NHS for granted, and I was really inspired by how the medical staff worked so hard together with the limited resources to do their best for their patients.

“In Jerusalem, I learned about the day-to-day activities of the hospital and the community it serves, from their Outreach Programme that visits remote villages to screen for eye diseases, to their laser therapy clinic. I also delivered a life support training session to the staff.

“I think it’s important to help out in emergencies wherever they may be. My experience both with St John Ambulance here in the North East and also around the world has shown me how it’s when everyone works together as a team then you get the best outcome for patients.”

Consultant Physician Clive Kelly has worked in the NHS for over 40 years.

As a specialist in rheumatology, he provides care for patients across the North East region as well as being involved in teaching and clinical research.

Four years ago, he decided to work half the year in the UK, spending the rest of his time overseas or working with UK universities developing medical and humanitarian projects in the developing world.

When the pandemic began, he returned home to the UK to work full-time with acutely ill medical patients at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and became involved in his local community response with ‘Mutual Aid’ helping to ensure that those who are isolating have all that they need.

Clive said: “As well as the acute impact of Covid-19, I am also seeing an increasing number of patients with symptoms of Long Covid.

“We must not underestimate this illness - the chronic consequences may be nearly as dangerous as the acute, and possibly even harder to treat.

“The pandemic has affected East Africa in different ways than Western Europe. Although mortality has been low as a direct result from Covid-19, lockdown has meant famine and hunger have stalked the land.

“It has become very evident through my work both in the North East and Africa, that treating illness in isolation does not address the real issues: we must understand the social factors leading to disease.

“Tackling inequalities in education is key to better health for all and these are complex issues that we all need to work together to address.

“True care and concern for others can take many different forms. You don’t have to be a healthcare worker or a scientist, just a human being: listening, sharing, understanding; a thoughtful gesture, a kind word; a door held open, a card written; a smile or a text.

“These really make a difference – both to the receiver and to the donor.”

Health Legends is supported by a group of organisations working on global health including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, THET, Students for Global Health, The ONE Campaign, Global Citizen, Restless Development and Malaria No More.

Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of The ONE Campaign, said: “From caring for patients on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic to supporting humanitarian projects around the world, these Health Legends all care deeply about helping their communities but also about the importance of good health and strong health systems on a global scale.

“Keeping our own local communities safe involves a global effort to stop the spread of viruses and diseases.

“As this pandemic shows, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

The Health Legends are keen to hear from others in their areas who are interested in global health. To find out more visit