TEARS of joy and tears of heartache – often both shed behind a mask – are just some of the images conjured up by the truly inspiring stories behind our hunt for Herefordshire’s Health and Social Care heroes.

There are also images of rose petal-strewn baths with champagne flutes, or families grouped outside windows telling someone how much they love them through a window.

There are images of carers in PPE and special arrangements for a Covid victim on their last journey to the crematorium.

Or there are scenes of carers battling through flood water to reach their vulnerable clients deep in the countryside.

But there are plenty of smiles – because what the entries have told us this year is that one of the most vital ingredients for health and care staff is to stay positive and bring laughter to their clients.

The nominations for this year’s awards have been amazing and moving – and they have come in in record numbers.

The Covid crisis forms the backdrop of the nominations and the words they speak are of compassion, dedication, positivity, creativity and – love.

There’s a touch of romance, a touch of personal tragedy, but through it all there is an overwhelming sense of teamworking to get through whatever is thrown at us.

Next week the story behind each of the 36 finalists in the awards will be published in a special supplement in the Hereford Times before the awards ceremony reveals the winners on October 22.

Don’t miss their heartwarming tales.