Two of The Independent’s top journalists shortlisted for prestigious awards

The Independent’s Holly Brancroft (left) and Rebecca Thomas have been  nominated for two prestigious prizes  (The Independent)
The Independent’s Holly Brancroft (left) and Rebecca Thomas have been nominated for two prestigious prizes (The Independent)

Two of The Independent‘s top journalists have been shortlisted for prestigious awards.

Health correspondent Rebecca Thomas is on this year’s shortlist for the Paul Foot Award for Investigative Journalism, while social affairs correspondent Holly Bancroft is a finalist for the Orwell Prize for Reporting Homelessness 2024.

Over the past year, Ms Thomas’s exhaustive reporting on the crisis within mental health care – both within the NHS and in private hospitals – has led to the closure of scandal-hit private hospitals, prompted a national inquiry into NHS mental health services, and even helped free an autistic patient who had been trapped in mental health institutions for more than a decade because of failings at every level of the system.

Following her longlist nomination for her coverage of failures in the UK mental health system, it was announced last week that Ms Thomas made the shortlist for the prize – set up by Private Eye in memory of the journalist Paul Foot. In a year that received a record number of entries, the shortlist said: “Campaigning journalism exposing the failures in the UK mental health system, which focused on telling the stories in suffering patients' own words.”

The winner of the award, who will receive a prize of £8,000, will be announced by Ian Hislop at a ceremony on 11 June.

In 2022, Ms Thomas was named Health and Science Journalist of the Year at the British Journalism Awards for her “revelatory” coverage of the worsening crisis in A&E departments.

Ms Bancroft’s shortlisted reports – ‘Clutching morphine and sheltering in a bus stop: the NHS patients sent from hospital to the street’ and ‘Cancer and stroke NHS patients among thousands discharged with nowhere to live’, which she worked on with The Salvation Army – shed light on the issue of homeless patients who are discharged from hospitals with nowhere to go.

Chair of Judges Paddy O’Connell said: “Our finalists artfully and expertly brought human stories to bear on the wider picture – congratulations to every one of them.”

The Orwell Foundation each year awards prizes for the work that comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition “to make political writing into an art”, with the 2024 winners set to be announced at a ceremony on 27 June.

Ms Bancroft’s nomination comes after she recently won the best Written News award at the Amnesty International UK Media Awards for her piece ‘Murdered, tortured or in hiding from the Taliban: The special forces abandoned by Britain’.

Her investigation focused on former members of two Afghan special forces units known as the ‘Triples’ that were set up, trained and funded by the British, yet were abandoned by the UK after the disastrous evacuation of Kabul in 2021 – with devastating, and often fatal, consequences.

The project was reported in conjunction with investigative group Lighthouse Reports, and has sparked questions in parliament for defence minister James Heappey, veterans minister Johnny Mercer and foreign secretary Lord Cameron. It has also been followed up by both UK and foreign press, while tens of thousands read the original investigation.