She had completed her pre-nursing and the first part of her state registration nursing (SRN) at Fort Pitt school and set off to start her practical nurse training at the voluntary West London Hospital, receiving a monthly salary of £4 and 1 shilling. Enid finished her training in 1950, remaining at the West London Hospital, before returning to the Medway towns in 1953.
She finally hung up her nurse’s uniform in 1995 after almost five decades of service to the NHS, as an orthopaedic nurse, maternity nurse, district nurse, health visitor and a nursing officer.
Enid remembers those early days of the NHS:
“The nation was so pleased, the war hadn’t long finished, and the Labour party was in government after an unexpected election win. The Queen’s coronation had taken place and there were street parties up and down the country; there was a sense of optimism that people’s lives were changing.
“That said, to begin with there was no euphoria when the NHS was launched. However as people realised it was a free service, over the next two to three years there was an influx of patients. They could see the NHS was a good thing, every service under one roof, providing good care from the cradle to the grave.”
Looking back to those days there used to be 24-bed long separate Nightingale wards for men and women. Enid said:
“We had no central heating, there were two coal fires in the centre of the ward and when on night duty we sat by the open fire putting more coal on to keep warm.”
For Enid the Nightingale wards were great as it was easier to monitor patients and keep a check on how ill patients were.
With the advances in technology the NHS has changed hugely since the service started in 1948. Enid recognises that nursing today is very different from how it was 70 years ago.
“New nurses today would be unable to do my job; similarly I would not be able to their job”. Enid said. “Back then we had to sterilise our equipment in autoclaves, we had no incubators for premature babies and when it came to district nursing, the community used to give us biscuit tins. We filled these with clean bandages which the community patients had to bake in their ovens at home to sterilise their bandages and guess what, no one got infected.
“No doubt it is the best healthcare service in the world. Even though the NHS has some big challenges, we still pull out all the stops to make sure people get the immediate care they need. The NHS provides a first class service even when short of staff”.
At the age of 89 Enid continues to support the NHS in her role as secretary for the Medway Branch of NHS Retirement Fellowship. In recognition of her lifelong commitment to the NHS, Enid was invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace on 15 May 2018.
Thank you to Medway Foundation Trust for this interview.