A CRITICAL care consultant on the coronavirus front line is among the Gwent recipients in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

Tamas Szakmany said he was “completely astonished and humbled” to be made an MBE for services to the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, Dr Szakmany has been at the forefront of efforts to treat seriously ill patients in Gwent, to co-ordinate the critical care response to the pandemic in Wales, and to research the viability of potential treatments for the virus.

“I thought I was doing my job like everybody else,” he told the Argus. “I didn’t think for one minute it was result in this. I’m really surprised.”

The 44-year-old was working in Newport’s Royal Gwent Hospital during the first wave of the pandemic, and is now based at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s (ABUHB) new critical care centre at the Grange hospital in Cwmbran.

South Wales Argus: Dr Tamas Szakmany. Picture: Nick MasonDr Tamas Szakmany. Picture: Nick Mason

Dr Tamas Szakmany. Picture: Nick Mason

Dr Szakmany was also the clinical lead for the All-Wales Critical Care and Trauma Network during the first wave of infections, helping co-ordinate treatment and supplies of medicine and equipment nationwide.

He said he was “really proud” of the health board critical care team’s emergency response to the pandemic and said he thought of his MBE as “an honour for the team, not just for me”.

In a message thanking his colleagues, he said: “We are in it together and we will get out of it together.”

Volunteer Alex Anderson has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for charitable services to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Newport.

The 20-year-old, who himself has Asperger’s syndrome, has dedicated himself to raising awareness among younger people about what he calls “invisible conditions”.

Mr Anderson said he was “just blown away” and “humbled” to receive the BEM, which follows previous recognition for his voluntary work including a Diana Award and a South Wales Argus Pride of Gwent Award.

The former John Frost High School pupil said his positive experiences at the school’s dedicated unit for children with ASD, made him realise he wanted to do something to help others.


Twins Michael and David Knight have formed a solid partnership at Newport Cricket Club over the past 35 years, expanding the club to be more inclusive and overseeing the return of first class cricket to the city after a 54-year absence.

The pair have been involved with the club since they were schoolboys, and after their playing days took on numerous roles to stabilise the club after it lost its Rodney Parade home 30 years ago.

With the club now based in Spytty Park, chairman Michael Knight said it was “really satisfying to see how it has developed” over the past three decades.

Awarded British Empire Medals (BEM) in the New Year Honours for voluntary services to Newport CC, Mr Knight said the letter from the Cabinet Office arrived the day after he and his brother turned 65.

“When the ground at Rodney Parade was sold, it left us pretty much homeless,” he told the Argus.

“The club was very close to going extinct, but a group of use got together and made a commitment we’d not let it die.”

David Knight said the BEMs had come as a shock. Looking back on Newport CC’s growth over the past 30 years, he said the hosting of a first class cricket match - Glamorgan v Gloucestershire in 2019 - was a triumph of the brothers’ determination to restore the club to its former standards.

“Thirty years of toil and effort slowly got the ground into really good shape, and there were a lot of people in the background working tirelessly with us.”

Sharon Higgins has been performing since the age of four, where she began at the Dolman Theatre in Newport.

She has been in the performing arts industry for most of her life. She runs the Sharon Higgins Academy of Dance and is chair of CentreStage Cymru musical theatre group, both of which are based at the prestigious theatre.

Ms Higgins said: “I am both honoured and delighted to have been awarded the BEM for performing arts. I have worked in performing arts for many years and it is wonderful to have been recognised for something that is not just a job but a real passion.”

Kate Bevan, 53 from Abergavenny, has been awarded an MBE for her services to agriculture. The farmer is also a lecturer in animal health and conservation, a mental health first-aider and was vice county chair and county chair for the National Famers Union.

She has been lecturing in animal management for more than 20 years and promotes women in farming.

Passionate about all things rural, farming and environmental, she has been the resident farming expert on BBC’s Lambing Live and The One Show and a health and welfare expert for Channel 5 at Crufts.

She gives monthly classes in shearing, animal husbandry, cider making and lambing as part of her Kate’s Country School. It has given other women and ‘urban dwellers’ the confidence to enter into the farming community and has been hailed as a success.

She is a champion of mental health in the farming community and addresses issues including isolation and depression.

Simone Roden, from Ebbw Vale, is the head teacher at Ynysowen Community Primary School and has been awarded an MBE for her work in education.

Richard Lee, MStJ QAM, 49, from Abertiwdwr in Caerphilly is the chief operating officer for St John’s Ambulance. He has received an MBE for services to healthcare during Covid-19.

During the pandemic, he has co-ordinated St John’s voluntary operation - the biggest peacetime employment of the charity’s volunteers, who have delivered more than 250,000 hours of service on the ambulance service and as NHS support.

He has also been ensuring the volunteers have appropriate training, protective equipment and wellbeing support, including in the Nightingale Hospitals.

As well as the co-ordination efforts, he has also been on the frontline himself on the ambulances, using his experience as a paramedic. He has treated Covid patients and been the difference between life and death for at least one patient.

Mr Lee said: “I am both surprised and humbled to receive this honour. The last 12 months have been the busiest in the history of St John Ambulance.

"Our Covid-19 response has been made possible by the thousands of St John people who all played their part.

"I will always make sure that everyone’s contributions to our response is remembered. I am very grateful to St John for allowing me to play my part in our response and nominating me for such a prestigious honour.”

Gwent-based Welsh Ambulance Service staff have been recognised in the New Year Honours List.

Paramedics Nich Woolf and Sharon Thorpe have been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM), while director of operations Lee Brooks has been awarded the Queen’s Ambulance Service Medal (QAM).

Chepstow-based paramedic Mr Woolf, receives a BEM for services to emergency medicine and disaster response.

He has almost 40 years’ ambulance service experience, working in Somerset and in Avon before coming to the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2001.

Mr Woolf has been on more than 20 first aid missions across the world teaching paramedicine, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Ethiopia and Senegal.

Pontypool-based paramedic and clinical team leader Sharon Thorpe has been awarded a BEM for services to paramedics and ambulance staff.

She has had a 27-year ambulance service career, joining aged 32, in the footsteps of husband Carl, who was an allocator in the control room.

Lee Brooks first joined the Welsh ambulance service in 2013 as head of service for clinical contact centres, and rejoined in 2019 as director of operations, based in Cwmbran.

He has more than a decade of senior leadership experience in the ambulance sector, having worked in London, New Zealand and more recently Australia, where he was executive director of operations for the South Australia Ambulance Service.

Mr Brooks has had a pivotal role in the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and also helped set up a new operational delivery unit, to tackle pressures in unscheduled care.

Trust chief executive Jason Killens said the honours are “testament not just to their contribution through the Covid-19 pandemic but to their broader commitment to the NHS over many years”.

Ema Swingwood, a respiratory physiotherapist at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

Ms Swingwood, who has been a respiratory physiotherapist at the Bristol Royal Infirmary for nine years, has been honoured for services to physiotherapy.

She is respiratory pathway lead at UHBW, the physiotherapy lead at NHS Nightingale Bristol and chairwoman of the ACPRC (The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care).

Ms Swingwood, 39, delayed the start of an NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship PhD at the start of the pandemic to carry on working in a clinical support role, as well as becoming the physio lead at NHS Nightingale Bristol.

She has also worked with Public Health England to develop guidelines and recommendations for physiotherapist interventions during Covid-19.

She was finally able to start her PhD at the University of the West of England (UWE) in September.

Ms Swingwood, who lives in Monmouthshire, said: “Although this is a personal award, I see it as being collaborative and a team effort. I couldn’t have achieved any of this without the support and efforts of so many wonderful colleagues.”

Dr Stephanie Tyler, 76, from Penallt in Monmouthshire, has been awarded an MBE for services to nature conservation in the UK and Africa.

“I was honoured, but also a little bit embarrassed as I can think of so many people who are equally or more deserving than me,” she said.

“But I am chuffed. It’s good that it highlights nature conservation as well.”

Dr Tyler has spent much of her career in Monmouthshire, but also spent a number of years in Ethiopia and Botswana.

Currently, Dr Tyler is working closer to home, as president of the Monmouthshire Meadows Group, which aims to conserve and restore flower rich grasslands in Monmouthshire.

She is also still involved with Gwent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, and is helping to organise a river survey across the county, collecting data on river bird numbers.

Others from Gwent to be awarded honours include Monmouthshire’s Professor Barbara Chadwick, who has been awarded an MBE for services to paediatric dental health. Professor Chadwick is a professor of paediatric dentistry, and director for education and students at Cardiff University’s School of Dentistry.