NHS Forth Valley nurse and ex-referee receive MBEs in New Year Honours List

A midwife and a former referee have been recognised in the 2019 Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Falkirk district residents Gillian Morton (56), NHS Forth Valley’s general manager and head of midwifery, women and children’s directorate, is to receive an MBE for services to healthcare, while ex-whistler Craig Thomson (48), who founded the Craig Thomson Scholarship Award to help young whistlers gain experience, will be awarded an MBE for services to football and charity in Scotland.

MBE recipient Gillian Morton, NHS Forth Valley's general manager and head of midwifery, women and children's directorate,

MBE recipient Gillian Morton, NHS Forth Valley's general manager and head of midwifery, women and children's directorate,

Gillian has worked within Forth Valley since she completed her general nurse training in 1981 and secured a post as a staff nurse in a medical ward at the former Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary.

She then undertook her midwifery training in the maternity units of both the former Falkirk and Stirling Royal Infirmaries before qualifying as a midwife in 1986.

This was followed by roles as maternity team leader, clinical coordinator for community services and then maternity unit nurse manager.

In 2003, Gillian completed further studies, including a BSc in Health Studies (midwifery) after becoming a mother herself and a Masters of Business Administration, before she was appointed as general manager and head of midwifery for the former maternity units in Stirling and Falkirk.

Throughout her career, Gillian has worked with frontline staff to take forward a wide range of service changes and improvements, including the merger of two local maternity units, the development of a new Forth Valley-wide system of team midwifery and the creation of a new Women and Children’s Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

In the last year, Gillian, who lives in Larbert, has taken on a new role as director for the NHS Forth Valley’s Elective Care Programme to increase theatre, diagnostic and inpatient capacity at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

She has also led the Best Start — the Scottish Government’s national plan for maternity and neonatal care — at local and national levels.

NHS FV is one of the five Early Adopter Boards for Best Start and Gillian has led a small project team to deliver new ways of working which will offer greater continuity of care to women throughout their entire pregnancy.

The mother-of-two has also supported local midwives to establish an Alongside Midwifery Unit within Forth Valley Royal Hospital which offers a greater choice for women on where to give birth and provides more comfortable, attractive and less clinical birthing rooms.

She also oversaw the establishment of a Transitional Care service within the hospital which allows mothers of babies with additional care needs to remain together, without the need for admission to the Neonatal Unit. Since then, admissions to the Neonatal Unit have dropped by around 20 per cent.

Earlier in her career, as an RCM representative, Gillian helped negotiate a local pay deal which allowed midwives to work more flexibly without being disadvantaged financially.

The Women and Children’s Unit at Forth Valley Royal Hospital won the British Journal of Midwifery Award for Excellence in Supervision in 2012 and the Royal College of Midwifery Award for Maternity Unit of the year in 2014.

It is the latter of those two awards which the Edinburgh-born woman regards as the standout achievement of her career.

In addition, Gillian was also responsible for setting up a Sands support group in Falkirk district, along with a neonatal colleague, to help families who have experienced a stillbirth or neonatal death.

Commenting on her MBE, Gillian credited the support of others and said: “I was shocked to find out I’d been nominated for a New Year Honour and, while it is brilliant to be recognised in this way, any changes and improvements made would simply not have been possible without the hard work and support of local midwives and nurses, the management team, obstetricians and frontline support colleagues.

“This award is as much for the local team as it is for me personally.

“You can’t do anything in health without the help of other people, there are always others to guide you.

“I’m absolutely delighted and really surprised. It never entered my mind that this could even happen.

“I found out in the middle of November when I got a letter and it was quite difficult because you can’t tell anybody.

“My husband Keith was away for the weekend so I couldn’t even tell him!”

“I would like to thank the people on the frontline who deal with patients, all the people who are sometimes forgotten about, from the admin team who take clients and the auxiliaries, to those who clean the rooms and the porters. Without them we just couldn’t get the job done.”

As much of her time is spent prioritising matters as the programme director at the new Elective Care Centre at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, completing the job she started is of utmost importance to Gillian.

She explained: “My future plans are more about retiring but I want to finish off the Elective Care Centre and make sure that’s built and just do anything I can to be helpful!

“I’m looking at March 2021 as that will be 40 years I’ve worked here.

“I have had a wonderful career. All the people are lovely and work really hard; everybody comes to work to do a good job.”

One-time top flight whistler Craig, whose final professional fixture as a referee was the Scottish Cup final in May, started out officiating amateur and semi-professional football before eventually being selected to become one of Scotland’s youngest elite referees aged 28.

He spent 19 years refereeing in the top division in Scotland, during which time he was appointed to the FIFA list of referees.

The Larbert man also refereed regularly in the Champions League and Europa League.

In 2014, Craig launched a scholarship award in his own name to send refs of any age and experience to tournaments abroad and pay for their flights, accommodation and expenses.

The following year the category one official established the Scottish Centre of Refereeing Excellence, which is open to every referee in Scotland.

He has since devoted his time and effort to raising money for the centre and has personally donated match fees, referee shirts and other memorabilia.

Reacting to his MBE nomination, Craig said: “It’s very unexpected.

“I’ve been involved in football since the age of 16 so it’s very pleasing and nice recognition.

“It’s absolutely one of my biggest honours because it’s so unexpected — this wasn’t on the radar.

“Thank you to my family because, for the last 30-odd years, they have had to give up quite some time.”

Being able to give back to the game which has been his passion for more than three decades was a motivating factor in Craig’s decision to set up his scholarship.

He explained: “I started doing it before I finished refereeing because I wanted to put something back into the game and a lot of youngsters have benefitted.

“We send them to places like America to go to tournaments. The good thing is they get experience and bring it back to the Scottish game.”