Preston's health hero Yakub Vali meets the Prime Minister

Yakub Vali (centre) meets  Prime Minister Theresa May at the Health Heroes awards
Yakub Vali (centre) meets Prime Minister Theresa May at the Health Heroes awards
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Yakub Vali’s work does not usually capture the headlines

He is one of the often unseen army of workers who help keep our health services ticking along, day in day out.

Yakub Vali, second from left, with colleagues  (from left) Saffron Willis Samantha Johnston and Jade Haigh in the specialist stroke unit at Royal Preston Hospital,

Yakub Vali, second from left, with colleagues (from left) Saffron Willis Samantha Johnston and Jade Haigh in the specialist stroke unit at Royal Preston Hospital,

The domestic assistant has a very important but a very unsung job.

Responsible for deep cleaning a ward at Royal Preston Hospital, he always has a smile for patients, visitors and staff.and displays dedication which goes well beyond the call of duty.

Now that work has been recognised.

Yakub was named as a finalist in a national award for being a health hero.

The accolade, bestowed at a special dinner, meant he met Prime Minister Theresa May and learned just how much he is appreciated.

Yvonne Jones, lead physiotherapist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, nominated Yakub for the award.

She said: “Yakub works on our specialist stroke unit at Royal Preston Hospital and we are privileged to be able to work with such a kind and special individual.

“Yakub is such a gorgeous person - the entire ward loves him. I can’t tell you the difference he makes.”

She continued, not sparing Yakub’s blushes: “Yakub works extremely hard and is great at his job, making the unit a clean and welcoming environment for our patients.”

His importance to the ward extends way beyond his official duties.

Yvonne explained: “Yakub goes above and beyond to make our patients feel comfortable and safe - he fetches them cups of tea, he calls the nurse if a patient can’t reach their buzzer, and he even brought chocolates and sweets for the ward at Christmas.

“Yakub is the most conscientious, humble and helpful member of staff on the ward and is an asset to our team. He is definitely our hero.”

For Yakub ,who has two grown up sons and one grown up daughter the nomination has been an unexpected but delightful surprise.

He said: “ It’s very good. My family were very happy.”

Yakub came to the UK in 1981 when his father, an Iman, moved to Scotland. He spent his final school year in Scotland and arrived in Preston in 1987.

He has worked in a shop and then in a denim factory before starting at the hospital in 2005.

He worked first on the cardiology ward before moving to the stroke unit and says he has stayed working at the hospital because he enjoys helping patients and staff.

He said: “I feel everybody should take part in making a difference.”

The fact he is bilingual and speaks Gujarati, having been brought up in Kantharia in India, also comes in helpful when dealing with South Asian patients.

The 53-year-old explained he is able to translate their needs, particularly useful if they are unwell.

“I always look out for patients - if they need anything, if they need the buzzer or any other care.”

As for his Christmas gifts he explained he “ wants to please everyone and put smiles on people’s faces.”

He added: “I try to help the patients and the families.”

He attended the awards presentation at a London hotel with his nephew Zubair Vali as wife Maimuma was working - she too is a domestic assistant at the Royal Preston Hospital on the paediatric (children’s) ward.

There was a double celebration as a special cake withYakub’s picture on was prepared for a family celebration.

Yakub was runner up in the Daily Mail Health Hero awards and was nominated for having a heart of gold and “going above and beyond”.

The awards honour NHS staff who work tirelessly for patients and services to make an outstanding difference.

Yakub added: “To be one of the five finalists was a dream come true. It was a fantastic evening and to sit and talk with the Prime Minister was just a big surprise.

“A big thank you to my family for their support and of course all my colleagues at Royal Preston Hospital.”

Karen Partington, Chief Executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals said: “We are so proud of Yakub...Yakub is definitely a hero in our eyes and truly deserves this recognition for the work that he does and the commitment that he has to his role and to his team. Congratulations Yakub!”