Eleanor Hayward

The Times

Throughout the year Eleanor Hayward has demonstrated her versatility and impact as a journalist, getting to the heart of the key health issues facing the country. She has broken scoops, while also humanising the complex issues facing the NHS by spending days alongside staff and patients on the frontline, enabling her to tell health stories in an original and insightful way. Her entry includes a front page exclusive about rising gambling addictions. This agenda-setting story included exclusive statistics and interviews, to provide the starkest exposé yet of the impact of online gambling on the NHS. Eleanor also also sensitively found and shared the case study of a young mother who became a gambling addict.

The story was hugely influential, prompting calls from several leading MPs and sporting figures for tighter regulations on the gambling industry - with the government ultimately publishing a gambling reform white paper six months later. It was also the first story to highlight the need for GPs to regularly ask patients about whether or not they gambled, to pick up any problems early. This became official NHS policy in October 2023, when landmark treatment guidelines said GPs should routinely ask patients about gambling habits. The second piece of submitted work, focusing on NHS Somerset, provided an unprecedented in-depth look at the state of the health and social care system as it grapples with the challenge of an ageing population. 

Eleanor was the first journalist to secure full access to one of the new NHS integrated care systems, spending time inside patient’s homes, GP surgeries, hospital wards, A&E units and pharmacies over a 48-hour period. The feature identified pioneering ways the NHS can adapt for the future, providing hope and optimism at a time when the public and politicians are losing faith with the health service. The article was widely shared and praised by readers and senior NHS leaders. It provided a creative and accessible explanation of the hugely complex challenges associated with an elderly population - an issue that will continue to dominate health journalism over the coming decades. In a year when industrial action dominated health news, Eleanor told the story of the strikes in a creative way through the eyes and hearts of those on the ground. Her third submitted article was based on shadowing a community nurse in London, who had voted to go on strike. The story was published in December - shortly before nurses went on strike for the first time in history. 

 At a time when much of the news coverage focused on public slanging matches between ministers and union leaders, this moving article cut through the political dispute and provided readers with a real insight and understanding of the key issues at stake for the hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who went on strike in 2023.