A hospital manager who lost six members of her family to Covid has been honoured with a key worker award.

Meena Patel, who worked at St Andrew’s Care Home, Barnoldswick, until September 2021, was recognised for inspiring both her patients and fellow staff.

Meena, now a manager at the Monet Lodge Independent Hospital in south Manchester, picked up the She Inspires Woman Key Worker of the Year for leading her teams through the pandemic.

Despite losing six of her own family members to Covid, Meena, 51, continued to support patients with complex needs and her exhausted colleagues. Some days she was spending 24 hours a day with her patients and was unable to see her own family.

Meena said: “As well as ensuring our patients were always kept safe, it was a time of coaching and mentoring staff on their emotional wellbeing, all of whom were physically and mentally exhausted.

“As the leader of the ship, it was always about leading by example and putting others first. I had to reassure everyone that we would come out of the other end safely and that we were all in it together.”

Meena, 51, became manager of Monet Lodge, in West Didsbury, in September 2021 after leading the team at St Andrews Care Home in Barnoldswick through the worst months of the pandemic.

Monet Lodge is an independent hospital for people living with complex dementia needs or mental health conditions, including end of life care. It is operated by national adult health and social care charity Making Space.

She added: “I got into health and social care 30 years ago because I care about people.

“For me it’s not a job, it’s a vocation, and always has been. I started nursing in 1989 and I’ve also trained and worked in social care and management, but fundamentally it’s about the joy on people’s faces, giving people independence regardless of their circumstances and giving them a quality death. That in itself is an honour and privilege.”

Meena, from Bolton, credits her mother with being the person who inspires her to keep going.

“My biggest inspiration is my mum, always.

“She’s a Hindu lady whose parents were originally from India and then they moved to Uganda. She fled from the Idi Amin regime in 1970 and has faced challenges all her life.

“She got off a plane in December 1970 in an alien country where she saw snow for the first time, she didn’t speak any English and within seven days she had an arranged marriage. The culture shock must have been huge.

“She’s faced so many challenges, she became a divorced single parent to me and my brother when it really wasn’t culturally acceptable, but she’s always been strong and independent.

“She taught me everything and is my strength, my best friend and my constant encouragement.”