The 2021 MJA Awards winners — so much to celebrate

By September 23, 2021Public

Fergus Walsh: an outstanding win

The Medical Journalists’ Association Awards are often described as a celebration of excellence in journalism — and in 2021 that has never been more true. Our members have followed the science, and communicated it with extraordinary accuracy and flair.

As Awards host, Nicholas Owen said in his opening comments, “Medical journalism has never, ever, ever been so important — thank you so much for all you have done.”


Catherine Collins ‘hijacks’ the stage

And after presenting the first award of the evening, judge Catherine Collins, “hijacked” the stage to say, “As a critical care dietitian, working with hot-Covid since January last year, I really appreciate the skills and expertise of MJA members in making sure the ridiculous gets dismissed and sound copy about Covid and the management of other conditions is out there for the UK public.

“I thank you for that on behalf of my professional association, the BDA [British Dietetic Association].”

Our winners and highly commended finalists covered Covid — of course — but also tackled a range of challenging subjects such as the promotion of infant formula, transgender health and cancer quackery.


But it was Covid coverage — and a superb Panorama programme presented by Fergus Walsh on the race for a vaccine — which won our ultimate prize, the MJA Award for Outstanding Achievement. Click here to hear what Fergus had to say about his win.

We also awarded an MJA Award for Lifetime Achievement for only the seventh time in our history — to statistician extraordinaire, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter for transforming the public’s understanding of risk and assisting journalists in communicating risk to their audiences with accuracy and clarity.


Click here to watch a recording of the 2021 MJA Awards livestream. 

Congratulations to all our 2021 winners….

Charity Writer or Broadcaster of the Year

Jane Feinmann 

The BMJ. The BMJ appeal 2020-21: Without good nutrition, children’s health outcomes worsen, as do their life chances

The judges said: Jane approached the subject of food poverty from a new perspective, which was really captivating and clearly engaged the healthcare professional audience. This piece is very cleverly written with tangible impact for such a worthwhile cause.

Podcast of the Year (entrants submitted three episodes for judging)

Sue Mitchell & Dr John Wright

Sue Mitchell: Producer, Dr John Wright: Reporter, Winifred Robinson: Presenter, Richard Hannaford: Sound Production

BBC Documentary Unit. The NHS Front Line

Week 1 on the covid wards

Week 5 on the covid wards

Week 8 on the covid wards

The judges said: This series was compelling and immersive. The series captured the horror, fear and strangeness of the unfolding pandemic. It took the listener to the frontline with powerful, well-observed details.

Newcomer of the Year (36 or fewer months in journalism)

Winner: Ethan Ennals

The Mail on Sunday: Revealed: How thousands of patients died of coronavirus they caught in hospitals

The judges said: A comprehensive and dogged investigation into one of the most complex questions involving COVID-19.

Rosa Furneaux

Highly Commended: Rosa Furneaux

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The baby brands turning Indonesian Instagram into free formula ads

The judges said: A thorough examination of unethical practice involving formula baby food in Southeast Asia.

Mental Health Story of the Year – Supported by Edelman

Ashish Joshi: Health Correspondent, Rachel Lucas: Producer, Chris Curtis: Cameraman, Elliott Crawford: Editor

Sky News: The second pandemic: Britain’s mental health crisis

The judges said: Excellent long piece, in-depth consideration, lived-experience voice. Wide ranging across the scope of mental health services.

The Dr David Delvin Award for sex and sexual health journalism – Supported by Christine Webber

Zaria Gorvett

BBC Future: Why transgender people are ignored by modern medicine

The judges said: Zaria took a fresh and empathetic approach to the challenges faced by transgender people, with original research and thoughtful use of case studies.

Feature of the Year (specialist audience)

Joint winners:

Simon Akam

Simon Akam

The Economist’s 1843 Magazine: The NHS in peril: how Britain fought the first covid-19 wave

A compelling, moving, account of what it was like within the NHS in the first three months of the pandemic. Fear, guilt, anger, anguish, and at times even exhilaration. If anyone ever writes a better account, it is this they will have to top.



Natasha Loder

The Economist: Suddenly, hope

The judges said: A riveting, comprehensive, elegant, and global account of how the vaccines to combat covid-19 were developed.

Feature of the Year (broadcast)


Fergus Walsh: Medical Editor BBC, Alison Priestley: Producer & Director, Oana Marocico: Assistant producer, Diana Martin: Executive producer

BBC1: The Race for a Vaccine

The judges said: This Panorama pulls back the curtain on the real people and the work behind the creation of a Covid vaccine. It shows the process, warts and all (including mistakes and challenges)  that led to the eventual success.

Highly Commended:

James Gallagher: Presenter, Beth Eastwood: Producer

BBC Radio 4/BBC Sounds: Inside Health Pulse Oximetry

The judges said: These Inside Health programmes investigated, with incisive interviews, many of the significant questions of the Covid pandemic — lateral flow tests, oximeters, and the concerns of GPs — backed up by penetrating explanation.

Ashish Joshi: Health Correspondent, Rachel Lucas: Producer, Andy Lumb: Camera, Charlie Joseph: Editor, Leila Hudson: Researcher

Sky News: The Second Wave: Florence’s Story

The judges said: A stunning human-interest story that painted a revealing portrait of the birth of a Pandemic baby called Florence — a report that let the participants speak for themselves, an increasingly rare quality in today’s television

Feature of the Year (general audience)


Stuart Franklin

The Sunday Times Magazine: Eye of the storm

The judges said: This entry shows the journalist to be a master multimedia storyteller, with a strong introduction and lots of moving detail. While stories and pictures of UK hospitals flooded with covid-19 patients have become commonplace 15 months on, this piece was an impressively early eyewitness account and eye opener for its audience, with great access to its subject.

Highly Commended:

Tom Whipple

The Times: The year science went viral: twelve months in my life as the Covid correspondent

The judges said: With a cleverly constructed narrative, and beautifully written with delightful turns of phrase, this piece offers a masterclass in how a light touch can pack a punch. Complicated scientific concepts are clearly and concisely explained for a lay audience. The engaging interweaving of the personal and political offers a unique take on the (only) story of the year.

News Story of the Year (specialist audience)


Mico Tatalovic

Research Professional News: UK’s £120m vaccine network ignored Covid-like virus threat

The judges said: Written in a non-jargon, non-sensationalist way, this beautifully crafted piece explained to the reader why as a country we were unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic despite published work in a leading journal and WHO recommendations to include COVID 19 on a list of priority diseases. Mico is to be applauded for patiently piecing together a complex story based on scientific evidence and informed judgement.

Highly Commended:

Natasha Loder

The Economist: Britain to be first to license a fully tested covid-19 vaccine

The judges said: Natasha’s piece is as an excellent scoop from a publication which is not normally in the business of breaking news. Natasha managed the rare feat of prizing advanced information out of a regulator, to be the first to reveal that the MHRA had taken the internal decision to approve a Covid vaccine. It was a great effort to beat the nationals to it on a subject matter at the front of everyone’s mind.

News Story of the Year (broadcast)


Clive Myrie

Sam Piranty: Producer, Clive Myrie: Presenter, David Mcilveen: Camera Operator, Jacky Martens, Exec Producer, Paul Royall: Commissioning Editor

BBC News: Royal London Hospital with Clive Myrie

The judges said: It was a true team effort that produced an incredibly moving and insightful report on the realities of coping with the pandemic within a busy ITU. There were many similar remarkable entries but this combined the human cost, both on patients and their families and the staff from the mortuary to the ITU, with details of medical treatment and strong public health messaging. There was sensitive interviewing, beautiful camera work and deft editing – as said, a true team effort.

Highly Commended:

Victoria Macdonald

Victoria Macdonald: Health and Social Care Editor, Millicent Teasdale: Producer, Job Rabkin: C4 News Investigations, Guy Basnett: C4 News Investigations, Ed Howker: C4 News Investigations

Channel 4 News: Revealed: PPE Stockpile was out of date when coronavirus hit UK

This was proper investigative journalism that revealed scandalous details on an issue that everyone was talking about – PPE – in a way that explained how long-term failures to safeguard stock led to shortages and out-of-date supplies. A quite dry analysis of data and documents was presented imaginatively.

News Story of the Year (general audience) – Supported by Roche


Dean Kirby: Northern Correspondent, Cahal Milmo: Chief Reporter

The i newspaper: PPE Chaos Revealed

The judges said: This report demonstrated a forensic approach which uncovered the desperation of trusts in trying to keep their staff safe in the eye of the pandemic storm. The journalists starkly revealed the utter chaos caused by a lack of a functioning central approach to PPE procurement and supply. Furthermore, their evidence demonstrated how the reality for NHS Trusts was in direct contradiction to the official Government line.

Highly Commended:

Nick Triggle: Health correspondent, Rachel Schraer: Reporter, Phil Kemp: investigations team, Wesley Stephenson: data journalist

BBC Website: Inside test-and-trace – the world-beater that went wrong

The judges said: An expose of a catalogue of error and omission of the NHS Test and Trace revealing a shocking list of detailed evidence. This was an excoriating account of the failures of the system, as well as including countless interviews with those who had to deal with the multi-layered fallout from the failings.

Case Study of the Year – Supported by Medtronic


Ruth Evans & Layla Wright

Ruth Evans: Producer, Camera, Director, Layla Wright: Producer & Presenter, Kim Rowell: Executive Producer

BBC Stories Team for BBC Three: False Hope: Alternative Cancer Cures

The judges said: This film was a brilliant and captivating piece of investigative journalism. It gave a fascinating insight into how easy it is to be seduced by bogus cures and the tragedy and heartbreak they can bring.

Highly Commended: Jo Macfarlane

The Mail on Sunday: Are thousands of women in agony because male doctors refuse to believe they have endometriosis?

The judges said: A very strong case history of a woman whose life was essentially ruined by endometriosis. This piece reveals starkly an underlying sexism and arrogance in the medical profession.

Science Explained


David Robson. Credit: Kirill Kozlov, London 2021

David Robson

BBC Future: Exponential growth bias: The numerical error behind Covid-19

The judges said: Colourful examples, fascinating, timely, A different perspective on Covid,  Not read anything else like it all year, Clever hook, good examples, I learned about exponential growth bias despite hating maths!

Highly Commended:

Richard Fisher

Richard Fisher

BBC Future: What I learnt in Oxford’s vaccine trial

We often hear about clinical trials, but few will know what it’s like to participate in one. Richard’s description of his hopes and fears, set against the background of the pandemic, were a compelling and very honest account. We like to think it inspired others to consider enrolling.

Freelance of the Year (Entrants submitted three pieces of work for judging)

Emma Wilkinson

Emma Wilkinson

The Limbic: Mending the gender pay gap in medicine: Mending the gender pay gap in medicine: “It is not going away on its own”

The Pharmaceutical Journal: The true impact of the UK’s hormone replacement therapy shortages

The BMJ: How cancer services are fighting to counter covid-19’s impact

The judges said: Good examples of comprehensive research and interviewing skills combined with clarity of communication. 

Editor of the Year (Entrants were submitted three pieces of work for judging)


Richard Van Noorden, Features editor at Springer Nature

Nature: The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide

Nature: Special report: The simulations driving the world’s response to COVID-19

Nature: A guide to R — the pandemic’s misunderstood metric

The judges said: At a time we were being asked to “follow the science” Nature led the way. Exceptional clarity of explanation and great graphics revealed the confident editing required to tell the stories readers need to hear.

Highly Commended:

Chrissie Giles

Chrissie Giles, Global Heath Editor, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism & The Independent: The next Covid crisis: a vaccine apartheid endangering us all

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Guardian & Punch: Lack of oxygen leaves patients in Africa gasping for air

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Suddeutsche Zeitung & Il Fatto Quotidiano: Crisis at the commission: inside Europe’s response to the coronavirus outbreak

A new team producing some really hard-hitting international content written with all the pace and skills of a thriller writer.

Outstanding Contribution to Health or Medical Journalism – Supported by Bristol Myers Squibb, Principal Sponsor of the 2021 MJA Awards

This award is not by self-entry but chosen by the judges from entries across all categories.

Winners of the Feature of the Year, broadcast category:

Fergus Walsh: Medical Editor BBC, Alison Priestley: Producer & Director, Oana Marocico: Assistant producer, Diana Martin: Executive producer

BBC1: The Race for a Vaccine

The judges said: This Panorama pulls back the curtain on the real people and the work behind the creation of a Covid vaccine. It shows the process, warts and all (including mistakes and challenges)  that led to the eventual success.

The Medical Journalists’ Award for Excellence in PR 

King’s College London and ZOE

For their work to engage and attract the media and public to the COVID Symptom Study app




Click here to see a full list of finalists in the Medical Journalists’ Award for Excellence in PR

Click here to see a full list of finalists in the 2021 MJA Awards

With thanks to our sponsors who support this celebration of excellence also to our expert judges.


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