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NSFT nurses to attend NHS70 service at Westminster Abbey

​Two long-serving nurses from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) will attend a ceremony at Westminster Abbey next week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service.

The service on Thursday, 5 July – 70 years to the day since the Health Service was launched – will be hosted by NHS England and NHS Improvement in order to thank staff and volunteers.

NHS staff from all over the country have been invited, including Karen Dye, a mental health nurse who works at Mary Chapman House in Hotblack Road, Norwich, for NSFT's Children's, Families and Young People's Services, and Pattie Manners, a mental health nurse who is based on Willows Ward, an older persons' ward at the Woodlands unit on the site of Ipswich Hospital.

The pair, who have worked in the NHS for 35 years and 39 years respectively after qualifying as nurses, will be joined by NSFT Managing Director Julie Cave, who has given 32 years' service to the NHS.

Karen, 55, has spent her entire professional career in Norwich after she qualified in 1983 as an enrolled nurse following a two-year course at the old Broadland School of Nursing, which was based at Hellesdon Hospital. She later spent another year there on a conversion course, at the end of which she became a registered mental health nurse.

"It's a real honour to have been invited to such a high-profile service and I'm looking forward to it very much," she said. "I am a big fan of the NHS and can't imagine working anywhere else, which is why I'm going to carry on working three days a week in my current role after I retire at the end of the year.

"I think many people take the NHS for granted which is why they abuse it by, for example, not turning up for appointments so I'm hoping that NHS70 will give us all time to reflect on what a wonderful institution it is and to appreciate it more.

"Although I've spent my whole career in mental health in Norwich, I've had a great variety of jobs in that time – it sometimes feel like I've done every mental health nursing job in the city! – and I still enjoy it.

"However, things have changed – nursing is a more pressurised job these days and has become more target-driven. Earlier in my career, patients spent more time in hospital than they do now and I can remember driving them to the beach in a minibus during the summer. Sadly, I think that to a certain extent, we've lost that personal touch."

Karen, who lives in Norwich and has three grown-up children, has worked at Mary Chapman House for the past four years. Her guest at Westminster Abbey will be her daughter, Charlotte.

Her first job after qualifying was on the long-stay wards at the old St Andrew's Hospital in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, where she lived in the nurses' home.

Her other roles have included working on the wards at Hellesdon Hospital, at the Julian Hospital, as a link worker at various GP surgeries in Norwich, in forensic services and in adult community services while based at 80 St Stephens Road, Norwich. For most of her nursing career, she has worked part-time.

Like Karen, Pattie originally qualified as an enrolled nurse after training for two years, in her case at the old St Audry's Hospital in Melton, and later did a one-year conversion course at what is now the University of Suffolk to become a registered mental health nurse.

However, after embarking on nurse training in 1977, she is planning to retire in January next year shortly before her 60th birthday.

For the past six years, she has worked on Willows Ward. Her brother, "T J", aged 55, also works at the Woodlands unit, as a clinical support worker.

Pattie said: "I'm really excited about going to Westminster Abbey and have already picked an outfit and fascinator. The NHS is fundamentally a good thing and its 70th anniversary is clearly worth celebrating.

"I've spent my entire career working on mental health wards in Ipswich with older people, including at St Clements Hospital, and have seen so many changes over the decades.

"When I started out, we had 32 patients on the ward whereas now on Willows we have 22, and we used to work 11 days a fortnight. Not only did we not have computers, but when I started we didn't have hoists to lift patients which we used to do manually in pairs.

"However, we were happy in our work and were able to have a laugh. We were very concerned about the patients and everything we did we did for the patients.

"I still enjoy it but I don't think the relatives of today's patients value nurses as highly as they did early in my career."

Pattie, who lives in Ipswich and who has spent most of her nursing career working part-time, will take her son Keiran, a social worker, to the Westminster Abbey service. She also has a daughter, Karlene, and two grandchildren.

Her parents moved to England from Saints Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. Her mother worked as a ward orderly at Ipswich Hospital and her sister, Bernadette, has recently retired following a career in nursing. One of Pattie's plans for her retirement is to visit the Caribbean.

Mrs Cave said: "We are honoured to have been invited to the NHS70 celebrations at Westminster Abbey.

"It will be a very special event and I'm so pleased that Karen and Pattie have agreed to represent our Trust on such a special day."

Caption: Pattie Manners

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