Published: 28/07/2005, Volume II5, No. 5966 Page 36

An NHS mental health manager has been recognised as one of Britain's best bosses Janice Sheath, head of older people's services at 5 Boroughs Partnership trust, is the only NHS manager to be commended in this year's annual Working Families/ Lloyds TSB competition to find Britain's best bosses. She was awarded the accolade for 'exceptional leadership skills'.

'My principle is, if you look after the staff, they will provide excellent care for patients, ' says Janice, who has worked in the NHS for 30 years while bringing up four children.

'I have always tried to understand that all staff have a unique family life and their work life will be affected by this. By providing a supportive working environment that is both stimulating, challenging and developmental, staff respond with motivation, commitment and enthusiasm.' The competition was launched in 2000 to celebrate unsung local heroes.

Nominees should be able to demonstrate that their workplace is family-friendly, has a good work-life balance policy and can show that they work for everyone. An NHS manager won the award in 2003 and others have received commendations since the awards began. The overall winner of this year's award was a North Wales police sergeant.

Janice, who manages five wards and a community mental health service, was nominated by clinical nurse manager Joanne Schofield. 'From day one, Janice arranged to spend a full day on each ward, not assessing their effectiveness, but getting to know people, ' says Joanne, who calls Janice's leadership skills 'the best I have experienced in 20 years of clinical practice'.

'She worked on the shop floor with unqualified staff, seven or eight grades below her. She wanted to know how she could help with their role and how they could help her to develop in hers.

'Within six months, she knew every member of staff, their strengths, their weaknesses and their problems. She was always there to lend a supporting hand.' Joanne goes on: 'Ward rotas had traditionally been quite ritualistic. Janice stood up and campaigned for us to be enabled to self-roster and be given independence and flexibility to meet individual needs. We are all now working in partnership to a common aim. Janice is an example to us all.'

www. workingfamilies. org. uk