NHS at 70: Meet the health workers celebrating NHS anniversaries this year

Julie Hall.
Julie Hall.

“I was 15 at a careers interview when I left school when it was suggested I look at nursing”, explains Julie Hall, who has now racked up 40 years working in the NHS.

"That and hairdressing were recommended. They were thought to be the suitable jobs for girls in the 1970s.”

Denise Knighton

Denise Knighton

It was somewhat down to chance that her career in the former began - she applied for roles in both industries but her nursing cadet interview - and the offer of a post that followed, came first and the rest, as they say, was history.

“I have never had a second thought about nursing or working in the NHS,” she told The Yorkshire Post.

Having taught at Sunday school and helped at play schemes in her teenage years, Mrs Hall felt she was already suited to a caring role helping others.

She joined the NHS in 1977, aged 16, taking up her cadet role at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, talking to patients and cleaning wards, whilst studying for O-Levels at Docnaster College.

She went on to complete a nurse training course, becoming qualified as a registered nurse.

In 1984, she turned to community nursing, working across GP surgeries and visiting people in their homes around north Doncaster.

She then trained to become a district nursing sister, a position that she held for 20 years, before later becoming a community matron in 2005, looking after patients with long-term conditions and advanced clinical needs.

Now, aged 56, and in her 40th year of work with the health service, Mrs Hall’s title is a ‘clinical pathway lead’ at Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust.

Her focus is on ensuring patients get the same level of nursing care regardless of their health needs, including both mental and physical.

She said: “I think the NHS has changed considerably since I started for the people that use our services. I think advancements have been fantastic, particularly around medical technology and the treatments that are available now for patients.
“I think it has adapted and staff have embraced change and been flexible. It has always been about care and compassion. That has been the case since it began right through to how it is now, and I don’t think that will ever change. It is a passion for working for the NHS that keeps us all going.”

In 2016, Mrs Hall, from Arksey, Doncaster was awarded the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Award for Outstanding Service, for her contribution to providing exceptional care for patients.

She said: “It has been a privilege to look after the patients that I have over the years. I am proud of the NHS and have loved every minute of my job.

“I was reminded a short while ago about something I had written on my nurse cadet application form at 15 - that nursing was a worthwhile profession and I wanted to help patients. I still think the same now, nothing has changed. It is as relevant today.”

Denise Knighton, from Sheffield, has also clocked up decades of working in the NHS.

The 68-year-old is now in her 50th year of being employed within the health service, which she first joined in April 1968, after attending secretarial college.

She said: “I was interested in people. Although I realised I wasn’t going to be a clinician, I felt I was working with the public and in an area I found interesting.”

Throughout her career, Mrs Knighton has taken on a range of secretarial and administrative roles including being a PA to a consultant haematologist.

Since 1989, she has worked for the now Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust where she is now an administrator in psychology services.

She said: “I have enjoyed dealing with people and trying to help people in the area that I can make a contribution.”

She added: “I am still a big proponent of the NHS. I value it as much as many other people do in terms of the care it provides. I believe in healthcare that is from the cradle to the grave free at the point of delivery.

“I still think the NHS is a great thing for all its difficulties and I think the people that I have worked with during the years have been so committed to their patients and to the service they provide. I feel that is still the same.”