Kate Spall wins 2016 Cheshire Woman of the Year award
- Credit: Archant
A record number of impressive women were honoured at the Cheshire Woman of the Year 2016 lunch, but only one could be the winner, writes Rebekka O’Grady Photography by John Cocks
Fashion, politics and life in general have certainly changed since the first Cheshire Woman of the Year lunch in 1985, but one thing has remained a constant – and that’s the calibre of women who are nominated every time. As committee chairman Sylvia Cheater remarked in her opening speech, the women gathered at Eaton Park are comparable to those 31 years ago – perhaps the only difference now is that there are more of them.
Sylvia revealed that each year the committee, whose members also raise money for the NSPCC, worry that they won’t receive enough nominations. But this year’s event involved a record number of 138 nominees attending the Duke and Duchess of Westminster’s home for their services to the community, professional achievements or their personal courage to be acknowledged.
The 2016 accolade went to Kate Spall, recognising her work in campaigning to fund new cancer drugs in the NHS. Kate, who lives in Chester but was born in Prestatyn, founded the Pamela Northcott Fund in 2007, following the death of her mother who was diagnosed with kidney cancer, aged 50 just two years before.
Kate was distressed by the knowledge that there was no effective chemotherapy available to treat kidney cancer, so she put all her time and energy into researching a treatment for her mum. After discovering two new drugs, Sutent and Nexavar, which were used in the US and most of Europe, Kate began her ‘Fight for Life’ campaign to the NHS board. Pam was then the first person in Wales to receive the drug. Unfortunately, it was too late for Pam and she died four months later.
Sylvia said: ‘Kate founded the fund in her mum’s memory, so that other families wouldn’t have to go through the same thing. Fighting her way through cancer bureaucracy, within six months of Pam’s death, 70 patients had been helped.’
Today Kate, who is now an expert in NHS cancer commissioning policy, has campaigned for the Cancer Drugs Fund which has provided new life-extending cancer drugs to over 80,000 patients. She often works with young patients and it was revealed that Kate had been nominated by a young woman she helped after she ‘slipped through the NHS net,’ wishing that everyone in her situation had a Kate in their lives.
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‘I’ve just worked out who nominated me,’ said Kate as she accepted her award from Janette McCormick QMP, deputy chief constable of Cheshire. Holding back tears, Kate spoke about how many teenagers she helps refer to her as their fairy godmother. ‘It’s a privilege to be here today among other woman doing great things, and I am proud that my daughter Eden can see me here as Cheshire Woman of the Year.’
Kate told me that the next important thing for her is to make equal access to cancer drugs in both England and Wales. ‘I am delighted with the headway in England, but Wales is five years behind. My job is not done until there is equal access. Then I would like to become a TV presenter!’ she joked.
‘Somehow this incredible journey has been propelled by mum. Never would I have guessed what would have progressed from that fight. As long as patients need help, I will be here. I am privileged to work with them at that time of their life, and to have that trust. They are the people who spur me on.’
Following a delicious lunch, guests at the event then heard from Janette McCormick QMP, who spoke about the centenary of women in policing. The deputy chief constable of Cheshire joined Greater Manchester Police in 1989 and progressed through the ranks.
‘I’ve been in the service for 25 years and even in that space of time, talk about a change in policing... But sometimes if you want to change things, you have to stand out and be a trailblazer, take no for an answer and champion things.
‘I remember when I was at a conference and a real battleaxe in the police force was retiring and she said, ‘Behind every successful man is a woman. Behind every successful woman is her determination and grit.’
The Cheshire Woman of the Year committee decided to give a special mention to the following ladies this year.
Kirsty McCartan, 22, from Birkenhead for her fundraising for teenage cancer patients. Unfortunately Kirsty passed away two weeks ago but is a huge inspiration and touched many lives in her short years
Averil Hart from Altrincham, for 40 years of volunteering at St Ann’s Hospice. Working on the wards and at the coffee shop, Averil has been a great support
Doreen Harper from Poynton, for 40 years of teaching swimming to disabled people. Well into her 80s, Doreen continues to help people swim and organises Christmas parties for her pupils
Dr Catherine Lewis-Jones from Higher Bebington, for being an outstanding medical consultant in palliative care. Her impact on patients and families is immeasurable.