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Staff share their stories to celebrate 72 years of the NHS

3 July 2020

Local GP Dr Peter Nightingale.JPGThe NHS celebrates its 72nd birthday on Sunday 5 July.  To mark this huge milestone, the Bay Health and Care Partners are showcasing stories from staff across the Bay to celebrate how inclusive and diverse the NHS is as an organisation.

Local GP, Dr Pete Nightingale, based at Rosebank Surgery, Lancaster Medical Practice, has just started his last week of full-time work in the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) palliative care team. He finishes his last 'on-call' of a three-month coronavirus (COVID 19) returning doctor’s contract on the morning of Sunday 5 July, which also happens to be his 61st birthday.

Dr Nightingale said: “With a surname like 'Nightingale', it seemed fitting to offer my services when the General Medical Council contacted me early in the pandemic. Everything pandemic related seemed to have Nightingale attached to it.

“My wife Barbara (who has also returned to work for the NHS) and I had just returned from an amazing two months in New Zealand, a 'bucket list' type trip, so full-time work in the palliative care team for me was quite a shock.

“Engaging again with the local GPs, the Clinical Commissioning Group staff, the hospices and the fantastic palliative care team at UHMBT has been an amazing privilege. The cooperation between health and social care teams has been heart-warming, with my old GP surgery (Lancaster Medical Practice Rosebank) giving me the use of an office and equipment. My role was GP advice and education and to support care homes, who as we all know have had a very difficult time during this pandemic. Despite the tragic deaths, the caring and commitment of almost all the care home staff I've spoken to in very tough circumstances, has been humbling to witness.”

Dr Nightingale added: “I've learned new skills too. At my age, I never anticipated becoming a fan of webinars as an educational tool. Using webinar sessions on the palliation of COVID-19 symptoms and dealing with bereavement issues have been delivered with the help of many others, to over 150 community doctors and nurses.

“I'm looking forward to a break now but it's been good to have been given the opportunity to help out. I'm genuinely proud of the NHS and its staff but also have increased respect for the work done in the care home sector and the complex, challenging care that they deliver. I'll now appreciate being 'retired' more than ever, but will happily help out again in some small way again if the need arose.”

Carol Richardson.pngCarole Richardson, Senior Therapist for the Occupational Health Department, UHMBT, joined the NHS in 1972 working as a Nursery Nurse at Hope Hospital in Salford in the Special Care Baby Unit.

Carole, said: “One morning, my best friend said to me, let’s do our nursing...so we did. I have to be honest I always wanted to be a teacher.

“I did my qualifications to become a Senior Registered Nurse as it was then and went on to become a Health Visitor. I then progressed to be a Child Protection Co-Ordinator. Alongside this, I realised that my true vocation was in the provision of therapy - Counselling and Hypnotherapy - so for 30 years plus, that’s what I’ve done - being there for the staff.

“Would I want to do anything differently? Absolutely not! The NHS has been my life for nearly 50 years. If I say it quick, it doesn’t seem that long...long may it reign.”

Sarah Gibson.pngSarah Gibson, Diabetes Specialist Nurse, joined the NHS in 1987 as a student nurse. She said: "I have to be honest; I didn't intend to become a nurse! I wanted to be an artist and after some pressure from my parents and school's careers adviser (they didn't think it would pay the bills), applied to do Nurse training.

“I joined the NHS as a fresh-faced 18-year-old student nurse in 1987, one week after I turned 18. I was eager to leave home and my tiny (6ft x8ft) student room, above the nursing school building, was to become my first 'home away from home'. Even the resident cockroaches didn't put me off the excitement of living independently.

“I trained in South Bedfordshire between Luton and Bedford Hospital sites at The South Bedfordshire School of Nursing. Nursing 'schools' were local at that time and relevant to the community they served, which I think made them more personal.

“At that time, the first two months were class-based then onto the wards which was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Lots of stories and fables surrounded hospitals and what things you could expect to see and get involved in, good, bad and scary! At 18-years-old, there was much of life I had yet to experience and nursing certainly delivered most of it! I was yet to get used to the long and very tiring shifts, pressures of staff shortages and the tough decisions staff and families often have to make on a daily basis.

"There are many experiences and patients I will never forget - some beautiful, heart-warming encounters and sadly, some of extreme sadness and fear.”

"I recall sitting with a dying patient in the early hours of the morning waiting for her family to arrive to say their last goodbyes. I held her hand, whispering to her; letting her know that her family were coming and to ‘hold on’ for them. It was like a miracle, that she did 'wait for them', and quietly passed away shortly after they arrived on the ward. I'm sure other nurses can recall similar situations like that one, but what a privilege to be with someone at such a point in their life - I'm forever grateful and it is so humbling.

“I went on to train as a Midwife (which gave me some of my best times ever), moving into community nursing, Research and Endocrinology speciality and diabetes speciality where I continue to work - albeit in a different part of the country.

"Through it all, the NHS has provided a much-valued team and family for me. Thirty-three years on and I'm still learning and hopefully giving back more than I take. The recent pandemic has been extraordinary and goes without saying, nothing we have seen as a country since the wartime (long before my time!). So for the NHS to be 'birthed' after the World War, was extraordinary and should bring some hope and encouragement to us all, that out of such hardship, new exciting things can happen to benefit our whole country."