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Denise Sterling - Inspirational leadership within Occupational Therapy, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Denise has made a significant contribution through her advancement of occupational therapy practice – including cross organisational working, and her excellence in leadership at one of the biggest NHS Trusts in the country.

Denise has been Head of Occupational Therapy Services since 1991; she has led and developed occupational therapy services through an incalculable number of organisational and policy changes. In her own organisation Denise has been a key driver in the implementation of innovative service development, such as pioneering a 7-day and extended hour’s occupational therapy service, improving stroke pathways, developing the occupational therapy role within hand transplantation, and working with West Yorkshire Fire Service to promote domestic fire prevention for vulnerable patients. Colleagues describe her leadership style as skilled, enthusiastic, strategic and taking a problem-solving approach, which she delivers with good humour. Above all she demonstrates care and compassion, a fair and inclusive approach to all and strives for clinical excellence.

Denise has been instrumental in bringing statutory and voluntary services together so that occupational therapy can be delivered more effectively. She has challenged others to think differently about how they work. Denise was influential in the 1990s in the establishment of a new graduate rotation scheme that crossed health and social care boundaries. More recently she has taken a key strategic role in leading work streams to deliver occupational therapy across health and social care as part of the Sustainability and Transformation agenda.  

At a national level Denise has utilised her leadership skills as a member of the Network for Black and Ethnic Minority Woman in the NHS. Her skills in advancing occupational therapy practice have been utilised through involvement in accreditation events at a number of universities and projects for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.

Denise has positively influenced many people she works with. Denise has contributed to the teaching, fieldwork education and assessment of students at local higher education institutions. One of her strengths is her ability to get to know her colleagues, and they value her ability to listen and to encourage them in their career pathways. For example, Denise has ensured that there is a preceptorship scheme for new graduates, staff have completed their Masters and access research opportunities and support staff have accessed in service courses to graduate as occupational therapists.

I have spoken with colleagues across Leeds about Denise, she is recognised by her peers as someone who always sees the potential for occupational therapy, that she sets high standards, strives for excellence in service delivery, and that she is always willing to be innovative and flexible to facilitate the best outcome for service users. Denise’s personal attributes have secured her ability to influence and lead; she is charismatic yet self-deprecating, she is able to clearly defend the need for occupational therapy but also listens to others and will adapt and change. She has made a significant impact on the way occupational therapists work and therefore on the lives of the patients that they see.

























Jessica Mudd

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vivien lewis May 3, 2018

Denise had made a significant contribution to Leeds teaching hospitals trust, the patients and the staff. She is a lovely, warm, engaging person who only ever wants to do the best by her patients and staff with such humility. She has a great sense of humour and is a pleasure to work with.


Ruth Eckersley May 4, 2018

Denise is highly regarded and is a great ambassador and role model to those in her trust and other agencies across Leeds.


Bex Goodwin Vickers May 4, 2018

Denise is a great colleague, very supportive of all AHPS and extremely professional at all times. Great to hear she's been nominated


Sarah Revel May 8, 2018

Denise has been a dedicated Head of Service who makes time for all staff, at any grade. She is passionate about promoting the huge value of Occupational Therapy and an excellent role model for the profession.


Tracy Clephan May 8, 2018

Over many years Denise has led work and supported others to ensure that the development of health and social care within Leeds has benefitted from both the unique offer and changing role of Occupational Therapy, and its potential for solutions in the years to come. She has also found time to be the Chair of Governors at a High School in Bradford!


Mary O'Kane May 8, 2018

Denise has a lovely warm bubbly personality which comes through strongly in the working environment. Denise is passionate about and supportive of all AHP professions, not just OT - I'm a dietitian. Well deserved nomination


DeborahHall May 10, 2018

I have worked with Denise throughout her career and she is an excellent leader and role model who puts the patient at the centre of everything she does. She values her staff and those of the teams she works with , working together to achieve the best for the patients. An asset to the Trust.


cheryl donachie May 10, 2018

Denise is a true champion for occupational therapy and other AHPs. She ensures her staff have a clear vision and direction, and involves them in decision making. She works tirelessly to explore new ways of working and seek out others to influence change whilst maintaining the core beliefs of the profession. She takes the time to get to know staff, and will always check on their welfare, a true leader who deserves this award .


Judith Glashen May 11, 2018

Congratulations Denise on your Windrush Clinical Excellence Award for Allied Health Professionals. Your nominator has shared a truly enlightening review of some of your achievements which for me demonstrates your dedication to raising standards and profile of the significant contribution and value of Allied Health Professions to delivering holistic patient-centred care.


(Account removed) May 18, 2018

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