A NURSE at Whipps Cross University Hospital was shocked and delighted to have been appointed a CBE in the New Year Honours List.

Ecstatic mum-of-two Eileen Sills, director of nursing and quality at the Leytonstone hospital, cannot wait to visit Buckingham Palace with her family, including children Chelsea, 11, and Savannah, six.

The 41-year-old has held the top nursing post at Whipps Cross since July 2001 and has helped to pioneer the modern matron role there.

She has been appointed a CBE for her strong leadership qualities and continued commitment to the job since starting out as a registered general nurse 20 years ago.

Speaking to the Guardian this week she said: "I'm extremely proud and a bit overwhelmed about it.

"I'm pleased for myself but also for the trust. Behind me is a fabulous team and all the improvements in nursing at the hospital have been made because of a team effort, not just me.

"We've tried to strengthen nursing leadership in the hospital and give nurses a very clear voice. We've also pioneered the modern matron scheme and have 19 matrons at the hospital.

"We have focused on a back-to-basics idea of providing a good service to patients as well as meeting our targets."

She added: "I'm happy here. There's something about the trust that gets under your skin and everyone working here is into what they are doing.

"I'm not sure when I'm going to pick up the award but I'm looking forward to it. My youngest is a little confused about it and thinks we're going to have tea with the Queen."

Mrs Sills has held senior management posts in a number of top London hospitals including the Royal National Orthopaedic, the Royal Free, University College and North Middlesex.

She gained a Masters degree in health services management in 1996, has chaired the London Standing Conference group on Homelessness and published a stocktake of health care provision for the homeless in 2001.

Mrs Sills has worked at the London regional NHS office to help set up a virtual computer leadership centre to enable students to learn leadership development online. The programme was launched by Health Minister John Hutton in November 2001.

She has recently spoken at a number of national conferences on the topic of modern matrons.

Peter Coles, chief executive of the hospital, said: "This is great news for us and confirms what we already know, that we have a nurse director with real leadership skills as well as excellent management know-how.

"All the staff will be delighted to hear of Eileen's award and I believe it also reflects on the quality and commitment of the whole nursing team at Whipps Cross."