Our Activist of the year awards are designed to celebrate brilliant activists doing inspiring campaigning on health issues in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

These activists have achieved change locally or nationally. Their activism encourages others to be braver.

The winners were chosen by the Treat me well steering group. Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist (see below).


The winners will get a chance to speak in Parliament in front of MPs and Ministers in November.

Catherine Carter, Leeds

Catherine is employed as a trainer and researcher at the human rights organisation CHANGE, based in Leeds. She has been campaigning on health issues for many years.

Catherine co-researched and co-wrote an easy read report for NHS England about people with a learning disability who have cancer. She helped to develop the Accessible Information Standard as part of the NHS England Steering group on accessible information.

Catherine recently hosted NHS England’s Twitter account for a week. She has campaigned for the rights of people with learning disabilities to be parents and be supported to keep their children. Catherine is currently working on a research project to develop the role of people with learning disabilities to be peer support workers.

Her colleagues say she is an ‘amazing warrior woman’ and human rights activist.

Paula McGowan

Paula’s 18 year old son Oliver passed away in 2016. She thinks his death could have been avoided if the nurses and doctors were trained about learning disability and autism.

Paula launched a petition calling for training in June and got almost 50,000 people to sign it. The petition played a big part in getting the Government to say that all NHS staff should get training.

Paula is really good at using the media and her big network of contacts to bring attention to the scandal of avoidable deaths. She has met with some of the most senior people in the NHS.

Everything Paula does is in memory of her son Oliver.


Gary Costa, Holyhead

Gary is part of a local Mencap group in North Wales. 

He has trained over 200 nursing and medical students at Bangor University. Gary has a learning disability but also has Muscular Dystrophy. He has lots of experience of getting healthcare treatment. He uses this experience in the training. His team say he is a ‘real asset’ to them. That means they would find it very hard without him.  

Danni Barlow, Herne Bay

Danni is a hospital checker for the NHS and for Healthwatch UK. She has carried out inspections at the three major hospitals in South East Kent. The information she found went into a major report for Healthwatch UK.  

Danni makes sure reasonable adjustments are made in hospitals, signs are easy to follow and there is easy read available. She is the main lead for the Treat me well campaign in her local area, Canterbury and Herne Bay. People she works with say she is very polite and respectful of others, but she will always speak up if she sees something that is unfair. 

Betty Noble, Witham

Betty is supported by Mencap in Witham, Essex. She has been involved with the Treat me well campaign group in Witham since it launched.  

Betty loves the work the campaign is doing and this has helped her in her own life and the life of others. Her campaigning in Essex has helped other people in the service and outside the service to understand their rights. She has helped them understand what reasonable adjustments they can ask for in hospital. 

Ariel Kasalako, Romford

Ariel has given a lot of his time to the Treat me well campaign. He spent a week in the local hospital in Romford with staff from the Mencap Lifestyles and Work team to spread the message of the campaign. 

Ariel started lots of conversations with people in the hospital about the issues that people with a learning disability face in hospital. He worked with others as a team to get over 200 hospital workers signed up as Treat me well Champions. He is passionate about the rights of people with a learning disability. 

Amanda McKie, Calderdale

Amanda is a Matron at the local hospital in Huddersfield. She has 25 years of experience helping people with a learning disability and has worked within a hospital setting for 10 years. 

Amanda is a great activist in her hospital. She has been the main leader of the Treat me well group in Huddersfield. She thinks it is very important to hear the voices of parents when looking after people in hospital. People who work with Amanda say she inspires other people to do their job better. 

Renee Persinger, Skegness 

Renee is a Service Manager for Mencap. She has been part of the Treat me well campaign from the beginning. She has worked with all of her staff to make them more confident challenging healthcare professionals in hospital. 

Renee has made sure everyone they support in Skegness has a hospital passport. She has contacted all the senior people at her local hospital about the Treat me well campaign. She has got support for the campaign from another Trust in her area in Lincolnshire. 

People who work with Renee say she is passionate about the campaign and about making healthcare better for people with a learning disability. 

Janet Brinicombe, Paignton

Janet has campaigned passionately to change things in her local hospital Trust. She has campaigned for the hospital to try a new way of sharing information about people with a learning disability in hospital. She also campaigns for the staff to always read hospital passports. 

Janet’s daughter has a severe learning disability. She went into hospital for a broken bone but went into a coma when doctors and nurses did not read her hospital passport and gave her the wrong medication. Janet has worked in a positive way with Torbay Mencap to make sure the Trust makes important changes. 

Write to your local NHS Trust

We need hospital bosses to take the lead so people with a learning disability don't die avoidably in hospital, and care improves.

Use our new e-action to send a message to the boss at your local NHS Hospital Trust (England) or Local Health Board (Wales), asking them to become a Treat me well champion. 

It's quick and easy - please take action now!


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