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Celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS!

Posted on the 1st June 2018

With the National Health Service (NHS) turning 70 on 5 July 2018, staff at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust will be marking the milestone with a series of events to celebrate the achievements of one of the nation’s most loved institutions.

On 5 July 1948, the NHS was launched by the then Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, at Park Hospital in Manchester (known today as Trafford General Hospital). For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, mental health practitioners, psychiatrists, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella to provide services for free at the point of delivery. 70 years on, the NHS in England today treats over 1.4 million patients every 24 hours and is one of the largest employers in the world.

Julie Seed, Deputy Director of Nursingat Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Over the last 70 years, the NHS has transformed the health and wellbeing of the nation to become the envy of the world, and delivered huge medical advances and improvements to public health, meaning we can all expect to live longer lives. It is thanks to the NHS that we have all but eradicated diseases such as polio and diphtheria, and pioneered new treatments like the world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant, not to mention the giant leaps we’ve taken in looking after the nation’s mental health and psychological wellbeing. The NHS plays a vital role in our lives, and NHS 70 recognises and thanks the extraordinary NHS staff, the everyday heroes, both clinical and non-clinical, who are there to guide, support and care for us, day in, day out. It is these people who are there at hand to provide quality healthcare at the right time and place.”

Staff and teams across Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust will hold celebratory events at clinics and health centres for staff and members of the public on 5 July. The anniversary is also being marked on social media with members of the public welcome to join the conversation using the hashtag #NHS70.

Case Study: Susan Latham: from ‘Primrose Girl’ to pioneer in diabetes care

To mark NHS70, Lancashire Care has been profiling staff who’ve spent a lifetime with the NHS providing sterling care to people over the generations and decades. Here is Susan Latham’s story who has been with the NHS since 1968.

Susan Latham, 67, is a registered nurse specialising in diabetes and her current role is working as a DESMOND Educator with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. Susan was born in Salford in 1951 and raised in Horwich. Susan’s tryst with the NHS began at the age of 17 as a Cadet Nurse at Bolton Royal Infirmary in 1968. A year later Susan attended Bolton School of Nursing and undertook training to be a ‘State Registered Nurse,’ which is the equivalent of todays ‘Registered General Nurse.’

Mini Skirts in the Swinging Sixties

This was during the Swinging Sixties when the Beatles, Mary Quant and cultural icon Twiggy were the latest craze. “When I was a cadet nurse, we were often referred to as the primrose girls. This is because we used to wear yellow uniform dresses and starch white aprons. Back in the ‘olden days’ the matrons were in charge of hospital day-to-day running. This included all the staff, particular the nurses. It was customary for matrons to line us cadets up on a Friday morning for inspection,” she said.

“Miniskirts were coming into fashion at the time and some of the girls would shorten their dresses. It wasn’t unknown for the matron to get her tape measure out and if the dresses had been shortened, the culprit would be sent to the seamstress in the sewing room and there their hems would be taken down on the dress before we were allowed to wear it again. Also, if the matron noticed you had a bit of lippy or eye shadow on, you were sent to the bathroom to wash your face. It was a very different way of life,” she added.

Marriage and move to Preston

Susan then worked as a Staff Nurse at Royal Bolton Hospital’s Cooper Ward. This was a Female Surgical Ward and from there she moved to work at the hospital’s outpatients department where she remained for a few years. After marrying Stephen who was from the Preston area in 1974, Susan came to live in Hoghton, Preston.

Susan then became an Industrial Nurse or what would today be known as an Occupational Nurse at British Aerospace Corporation (called BAE Systems). She was there for around three years before having her first baby and then in 1978 began working night shifts on the Coronary Care Unit at Preston Royal Infirmary on Deepdale Road. “In those days, the maternity pay was for 18 weeks so it was very different. Luckily as a nurse, out of hours shifts fitted in with family life,” she said.

Twilight Girls pioneering care in the community

Later on, Susan got a job as a District Nurse working out of hours in Chorley. It was here that she and her team became known as the “Twilight Girls.” “This was the first ever introduction of nurses in the community out of hours. We pioneered this at that time. The service consisted of four nursing sisters and some SENs and Auxiliary Nurses,” she said, adding that their shifts used to begin at 7pm and finish at 11pm.

“There was no overnight service and it was a hard job but I loved it. We all had our children with us during the day, by this time I had four. It was common for us nurses to get together during the day and our children would play together. Once the dads came home, we would get them ready for bed and then go out to work, which was the best of both worlds as we could do the job that we loved,” she said.

This way of providing care in the community out of hours was a new initiative in those days in the early 1980s. “There were no mobile phones then. There was a telephone and an answering machine in the office. When we were out in the community we had to stop by telephone boxes, put some money in and pick up our messages from the answering machine,” she said.

“In this way, if any of our patients needed any additional help we would get the message and make preparations for them. At the end of the night, one of the sisters would go back to the office and check if there were any other messages. At that time it was Lancashire Area Health Authority,” she added.

NHS uniforms

Back in those days, nurses dressed very differently to how they are dressed today. Susan explained that community nurses at that time wore navy blue felt hats, navy blue dresses and navy blue belts with silver buckles. “The outfits came with white paper collars, white cuffs with elasticated ends, navy blue cardigans. In winter, we’d also have navy blue wool coats and a navy blue mac for the summer. We all wore black shoes. Sometimes, the weather in those days used to be pretty bad and we’d be going into rural areas in thick fog and heavy snow, and so a good pair of wellies and thick socks was a must have.”

Getting stuck in the snow

“On more than one occasion we even had to get farmers to get our vehicles out of snow drifts in the middle of the night, and don’t forget there was no mobile phones in those days. It was potluck whether anybody found you, or rescued you. I can remember one occasion when the snow was really bad, it was a Sunday, and vehicles couldn’t get down certain places in Chorley. There were no syringe drivers in those days for terminally ill people and so the nurses would administer late night morphine injections to the patients to help manage their conditions. On one particular occasion, we couldn’t get to a patient because of the snow. So one of my colleagues who was off duty and who lived nearby, went in her uniform, in her wellies, with her kit, and walked two miles at night in the snow to administer this patient their injection so as to ensure a pain-free night. I feel this embodies the dedication of NHS nurses.”

Work with diabetes

After Community Nursing, Susan worked as a Practice Nurse at GP surgeries for around 13 years from 1992. It was then that she was given the opportunity to be part of a pioneering piece of work around diabetes that was called Start Diabetes in the Preston area. The highlight of Susan’s work with the NHS came in 2007 when she began working with DESMOND that was piloted by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.

“We started this programme for people with Type 2 diabetes. DESMOND is all about group education and it has been my inspiration. At the time I was doing DESMOND along with being a diabetes specialist nurse, and so I had my own case load and had my own clinics. When I was 61, in 2012 I took retirement for a month and went back part time. The reason why was because I didn’t want to leave, I loved my job, and I loved the NHS, caring for people and doing the job I’ve been doing. DESMOND has grown and grown and I feel very proud to be part of that.” Her passion was such that in 2016, Susan won the National DESMOND Educator Award.

“I’ve had two hip replacements and surgery on my foot, but it doesn’t stop me from working and doing the job that I love doing and I feel very proud to be able to deliver the DESMOND programme in the latter days of my working years. This epitomises everything about the NHS.”

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