Guidelines Templates

What do I need to know before I start writing my submission?

Read the relevant 2021 MNCLHD Award Guidelines. There is often only one point that separates the finalists from the non-finalists and often just one point that separates the winner from the rest. These tips have been summarised to assist you in writing your Awards submission.

There are 10 discretionary points awarded for quality of presentation, logical coherence and rigor. Therefore, not only does your information need to be complete and answer all the questions a judge might have, but the text must be concise as the word counts are precise and non-negotiable.

What are the 2021 categories?

Team Awards
1. Excellence in the Provision of Mental Health Services
2. Health Research and Innovation
3. Keeping People Healthy
4. Patient Safety First
5. People and Culture
6. Transforming Patient Experience

Individual Awards
7. Volunteer of the Year
8. Staff Member of the Year
9. Collaborative Leader of the Year

What do the judges look for in a winning submission?

Judges award points for each section of your submission: 

Criteria Score
Innovation and originality 15
Sustainable and scalable 15
Better patient outcomes 15
Better teamwork & partnerships 15
CORE values 15
Link to NSW Health Strategic Planning Framework 10
Productivity and efficiency 5
Logical coherence and rigour 5
Quality of presentation 5

Make sure you have all of the required information included in each section of your submission i.e. include your tables, figures etc. to make it easy for judges to find the information.  Judges will not search for information if the required information is elsewhere or a table or figure is not easily identifiable in the attachments. If this is the case, an application may not be awarded the maximum points it deserves.

Make sure you spend the time necessary to get the maximum score for each section of your submission, some applicants don’t spend a lot of time and thought on sections they don’t feel is important or they have limited information for, remember every point is vital to getting your submission to finalist stage.

Remember the judges may not be subject matter experts in your field, to get maximum points you need to make sure you explain each section of your submission clearly and concisely – refer to your category criteria in the 2021 MNCLHD Award Guidelines.

Is there a limit to the amount of words I can use in my project title?

Your submission title is restricted to 50 characters, therefore keep your title short and relevant to your project.

Does it matter if I go over the word count?

Do NOT go over the word count. This is not like a university assignment where you have a discretionary five to ten percent. The online Awards software will cut off any words over the limit for each section resulting in:

  • sentences that don’t make sense
  • the application being penalised on the five points for quality of presentation.

Try NOT to write substantially under the word count for any section, try to allocate words proportional to points available i.e. if a section has 15 points and you have written three sentences (approximately 60 words), you are unlikely to score more than five points and will dash all hope of being a finalist.

Many applications waste words on duplication. However, it’s sometimes useful to reiterate, especially a key piece of information, but not at the cost of saying something different that will get additional points.

Are there any tricks to maximise word counts?
  • Dot points allow short, sharp, succinct information rather than full sentences which wastes words. This information is also easy to read, digest and retain.
  • Tables reduce wordage but need to be separate attachments which can sometimes reduce reading fluency and this should be avoided.
  • Consider if very detailed information is required and will secure the application more points e.g.  use shorter terms such as ‘multidisciplinary team’ instead of detailing each member of the team:  ‘medical, allied health, cleaning, administration, security, food services, enrolled nurses, registered nurses and the clinical nurse educator’.  In this example two words were used instead of 17.  Another alternative is to use slashes to reduce words, e.g. nursing/medical/allied.
  • Hyphenated words reduce word counts.
  • Consider replacing names of multiple organisations/departments with ‘stakeholders’.
What should I include in my Abstract?

The maximum word count is 150 which is around five to six sentences i.e. one and a half sentences for each of the following four criteria:
1. Aim
2. Method
3. Results
4. Conclusion.

NB. A good aim or mission statement identifies a ‘stretch goal’ that is achievable but difficult to achieve (an aspirational target). Teams are advised to avoid drifting from the original aim, but be prepared to re-focus the aim.

Examples of aim (or mission) statements which will ‘stretch’ a team to achieve improvement are:

  • within 12 months, decrease the rate of infections in joint replacement surgery to less than one percent
  • within eight months, decrease the number of admissions with a primary diagnosis of asthma by 50%.

For more information refer to: CEC Quality Improvement Tools

How do I make sure I write what is relevant to the category?

Relevance to Category has a 150 word limit, make sure you explain how the project:

  • relates to the award category
  • meets the strategic aims of the award category.

Any substantial benefits impacting across other award categories:

This part is often very poorly written, it tells the reader that the scope of the project has, potentially, additional direct and/or indirect benefits to the patient, staff or organisation. The more benefits you can outline here the better.

What information do I need to include to prove my project is innovative?

The innovation and originality section of your submission has a 250 word limit, include the following:

  • explain the extent to which the project/program demonstrates an original or innovative approach (new or known) to an existing issue
  • if the project/program is using a known innovation, explain the extent to which it has been implemented differently/innovatively.

This section is often poorly done, sometimes using very few words resulting in low scores if not addressed adequately. As these are innovation awards, the originality or the ‘difference’ in deployment is what is key here and should be described in detail. The project should show resourcefulness and creativity and may include workforce or other innovation and use of enabling technologies with support for a sustainable service model. All these should be described in detail.

What is sustainable and scalable?

The word limit for this section of your submission is 250 words.  In this section you need to provide evidence showing the project/program has:

  • resulted in systemic changes which are embedded within the organisation, usually you would expect to see some kind of training / policy / documentation /standards etc.
  • is sustainable over time (and not just three months), a project which has just finished and not had an evaluation is not able to demonstrate that better performance has been sustained over time. If this is the case, then it would be best to describe, in detail, the plan for future evaluation.

In this section you need to identify the extent to which the project/program:

  • is scalable
  • is able to be replicated
  • has been (or has potential to be) successfully transferred to other health services/settings
  • if it has not been scaled up to other wards, departments, hospitals, other settings, then indicate if it could and how. The ‘how’ will allow judges to conceptualise the potential of the project.
How do I describe better patient outcomes?

This section of your submission has a 200 word limit.

Provide evidence showing how the project/program has improved outcomes for patients. These may be either direct or flow-on depending on the nature of the project. For example, reduced length of stay or reduced morbidity.

There are additional criteria for projects relating to Aboriginal people so explain how the project has or could result in benefits to this cohort.

Risk reduction is a big positive (for patients, carers, staff and organisation), insert the word at every opportunity.

If you have little quantitative data, consider generalisation:

  • patients are happier because… e.g. they have choice in …
  • costs have reduced because… e.g. the process has been simplified and so takes less resources (provide detail)
  • staff are more satisfied with the system because…e.g. duplication is reduced
  • numbers (quantitative data) are always preferable and score much higher than words (qualitative).
How do I outline better teamwork and partnerships for my project?

This section of your submission has a 100 word limit, here you need to provide evidence of improved teamwork, demonstrating effective engagement through community and stakeholder consultation to meet the project/program objectives. Anywhere you can mention the words patient, community, carers etc. then do so, in all sections.

Provide evidence of effective care which is:

  • consumer-focused
  • integrated
  • operates across professional boundaries.
How do I describe the productivity and efficiency of my project?

This section of your submission has a 100 word limit.  Here you need to describe how the project /program demonstrates an improvement in efficiency and productivity.


  • all flow-on effects, e.g. staff satisfaction = decreased attrition – a judge could appreciate that this is a very viable outcome
  • talk money e.g. reduction in cost / avoided cost / time saved /people etc or income generation
  • time – if the innovation is clearly identified it should be easy for a judge to agree if you state turnaround time is reduced
  • length of stay decrease (even if the literature identifies that elsewhere this has resulted but your project has not measured it)
  • reduction in process steps… results in time reduction plus reduced opportunity for errors.
  • reduction in complexity… as above
  • increase in numbers…could mean decrease in cost
  • efficiency cannot be discussed without effectiveness which would be addressed in patient outcomes
  • risk reduction.

Patient outcomes section is about better care/service/satisfaction etc. whereas this section is about time and money, resources, governance, risk reduction etc. This is a good section to expand on your patient outcomes.

How do you list references?

Format: You must adhere to the requirements which is in Appendix two – Style Guidelines (last page of Award guidelines) otherwise you will lose points for your submission.

List full details of the publication in a reference list at the end of the submission – use Harvard referencing style you can access the Harvard Referencing Generator.

For most of the award categories, there is not an expectation that it be totally referenced. Consider, at project end, on doing a short literature review so you can state that no-one else has introduced this innovation or the problem is extensive/intractable everywhere?

How do I include tables and graphics?

A picture is worth a thousand words so include these where its appropriate in your submission.

Tables and graphics are to be included as separate attachments (maximum of five) and must be in.pdf, .doc, .xls, .xlxs, .docx, .jpg, .jpeg, or .png format or the Awards software will reject it and it will not be included in your application.

Clearly reference these in the body of your submission with corresponding file name, for example ‘see Table 1’ and Table1.doc.

Do not attach a whole report when only one graph is applicable. The judges may mark you down if they have to spend time searching or cannot find the graph so make sure these are correctly added to the attachment file.

Consider copying and pasting graphs into a word document and giving clear titles etc. to demonstrate exactly what it is being referred to in the body of the application.

How do I use abbreviations in my submission?

Spell out the whole word first (with the abbreviation in brackets) then just use the abbreviation for the rest of the application unless only using twice, making sure you don’t use abbreviations in the abstract or reference section.

What characteristics does a poor submission have?
  • Instead of stating XYZ, refer to it as the program/project/team. This cuts words and allows the reading to flow.
  • Intervention may be innovative but application very light in describing this.
  • Too many words used on one section to the detriment of others.
  • Jargon.
  • Education/training ‘still in development’.
  • Values poorly described.
  • Spelling / grammar – there are five points for quality of presentation.
  • Too early / late in the project’s life cycle.
  • Benefit for patients, staff or organisation is difficult to discern.
  • Resulted in better teamwork, but did not explain ‘how’.
  • Wrongly referenced.
  • Innovation issues.
  • Not innovative.
  • Originality difficult to discern. No marks will be awarded if the information describes something poorly or confuses the judges.
  • Fails to show what, if anything, is novel.
  • Missing or confusing information = no points. Judges do not have crystal balls.
  • Innovation was a modification of an “off-the-shelf” – needed more info on how it was implemented differently in your organisation (an award criteria).
  • A literature review (not mandatory) would have proven the interventions were not as ubiquitous as the application suggested (tell the judges what they don’t know/deduce).
What is considered a poor project evaluation?
  • Scope of the original problem was not identified.
  • No baseline data (structure, process or outcome).
  • Insufficient data, especially after the change.
  • Poor sampling or insufficient numbers, e.g. five patient surveys of a population of 500 cannot be used for generalisation.
  • This is not a rigorous evaluation and judges mark down on this.
  • Not all aims have been evaluated. The evaluation does not correspond to the aims. You can do additional evaluation but not measure less than the aim(s) required.
  • Data too old.
  • Qualitative evaluation is ‘currently underway’. This indicates the project still in progress and therefore judges will score low on the 15 available points as the project is not complete and cannot demonstrate any sustainability.
  • Retrospective data but nothing concurrent.
  • Incorrect analysis / tests.
  • No analysis, e.g. just a table of all data with no interpretation.
  • Weak analysis: no statistical significance.
  • If there are other benefits for patients, these should also be evaluated or at least commented on, e.g. Health outcomes: mortality / morbidity / functionality / health improvement / satisfaction / health education.
How do I provide evidence for my project?

Avoid making vague or unsupported claims. Award-winning submissions always include data and evidence because in doing so ensures credibility. A general claim such as ‘Customer satisfaction increased’ is much stronger when evidence is given: ‘Customer satisfaction increased by 15 per cent, as demonstrated in the graph attached in Appendix A.’

Evidence to support your application is recommended and can be in the format of documents, photographs, tables and diagrams, video footage etc. Refer to your supporting documentation within your answers to each criterion where necessary.

Final tips
  • Before you start writing, brainstorm ideas with the project team.
  • Select one team member to drive the submission, but make sure that person has suppor.t
  • Consider your submission in the form of the PDSA cycle (Plan, Do, Study, Act).
  • Keep it simple – Avoid jargon and overuse of acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs and read your work aloud.
  • Really consider the benefits of your project. Don’t be shy — talk them up!
  • Make sure your outcomes are backed by robust evidence.
  • Try to include visual references such as charts and tables.
  • Reference information using the Harvard System.
  • Use your attachments wisely. Only five attachments are allowed to a maximum of five megabytes. Don’t waste them!
  • Don’t leave everything to the last minute. Allow plenty of time to review your submission.
  • Get a non-medical person to read the application – if they do not understand it then the judges won’t and you will not maximise your score. Often, there is a consumer on the judging panel and sometimes only four judges. Therefore, the application must be understandable to lay people in order to gain maximum points.

If you’re unsure of any part of the process, speak to your Network / Facility Quality Manager or: 

Vanessa Edwards
Director Communications & Strategy
Tel: 6589 2304