A manager who successfully battled to turn around the fortunes of a struggling Pembrokeshire nursing home has struck gold in major national awards.

Two years after taking over CareInn Ltd’s Rickeston Mill home in Haverfordwest Sue Lanceley found herself facing the problem of a high level of bed vacancies but made it her sole mission to save the home.

It is now full with a waiting list and Sue’s “loving and understanding” management style has won her widespread praise from residents’ relatives.

It is this dedicated approach to her role that saw 55-year-old Sue take gold in the Leadership and Management in Residential Care Services category of the 2017 Wales Care Awards, sponsored by Christie & Co.

The event was sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs, and the glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff. It was hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

The awards are in association with Care  Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.

Originally from Warrington in Cheshire, Sue qualified as a State Enrolled Nurse in 1982 after completing her nursing training at the town’s General Hospital and went on to work in various different settings as a staff nurse.

After marrying and moving to Wales, she spent three years as deputy manager of St Theresa’s nursing home in Fishguard from 2008.

In 2011 the single mother of two children and grandmother of seven was appointed manager of Rickeston Mill.

In her nomination for the Wales Care Awards, the home’s operations manager Ramesh Patel says: “In 2013 Rickeston Mill was struggling with a high level of bed vacancies and was proving unviable.

“I know what Sue went through and how she made it her sole mission to save the home. She worked tirelessly to make it viable.

“She managed the process of change, including changing registration category to include services for people with dementia. She rose above it all and made Rickeston Mill into the home of residents. Today it is full with a waiting list.”

Sue’s awards nomination was supported by a host of glowing tributes from residents’ families, including one which said of her: “She is kind, warm hearted, utterly reliable and cares deeply about all her residents and staff.”

Another said: “Sue is one of the most caring, loving and understanding people you could wish for and I soon learned to trust her entirely.”

Sue, who lives in Haverfordwest, said: “I look back on 2013 as a very challenging period. We were then just a general nursing home but there were nine empty beds. As a company we had to think about what we were going to do and to change tack.

“We put a plan in place to do the training and change the environment to register as a dementia care home. Since then we have become solely registered for dementia care but can still do general nursing care if necessary.

“I suppose I am quite a hands-on manager but I have a good rapport with our residents and have a brilliant staff of over 30.”

She said of landing the coveted gold award: “I was over the moon at winning. I certainly didn’t expect it and lining up on stage with the others shortlisted for the award as they announced the bronze, silver and gold winners in reverse order was quite daunting – a bit like the dance off in Strictly!

“However, it was brilliant to win the gold and I’m delighted to say about nine members of the team from Rikeston Mill, including my partner Mandy who is also my clinical lead at the home, were with me to share the experience of a really great evening.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them.”