From the cradle to the grave?  A personal experience of the NHS” By Barbara Beard. 11th Feb 2019

Barbara first began her talks when she was a member of her U3A Local History Group.

She became par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in the NHS because she was born only two weeks after the “birth” of the NHS on 5th July 1948.

Her par­ents met in the Army and moved to London.  At that time hos­pit­als were run by char­it­ies and, when her mother was preg­nant with her first child she was admit­ted to The Mother’s Hospital, which was run by the Salvation Army.

Later they moved to a top flat in New Cross that had 50 steps up to it.  Her mother had three chil­dren and, to occupy them, took them to Peckham Health Centre.

At the Centre the idea of Doctor Scott Williamson and Doctor James Pearce was that:

Health is a pro­cess that has to be cul­tiv­ated if it is to thrive.  We begin where doc­tors leave off.” 

They were trying to pre­vent ill­nesses rather than cure them by help­ing people to keep as fit as pos­sible.  The whole family had to join the Centre and there they did keep fit and dan­cing ses­sions.  To sur­vive fin­an­cially the Centre needed 3000 fam­il­ies to join but by 1947 had only 500 fam­il­ies paying for mem­ber­ship.  In 1950 the Centre closed for lack of fund­ing and Bevan said that the NHS wasn’t ready to help with fund­ing, although this kind of centre was pos­sibly the germ of the idea the inspired the begin­nings of the NHS.

Barbara’s family moved to Nottingham in 1950.  When she was 8 years old she was admit­ted to hos­pital with ton­sil­litis, where she had a bad exper­i­ence with a bossy nurse, so she hated nurses!  Two years later she was in hos­pital again, but this time had such good care that she decided that she would become a nurse.

In 1967, the ‘Summer of Love’ Barbara became a nurse, although she star­ted in a cohort of 26 nurses and ended with only 8 who stayed the course.  They had a 44 hour week, had to live in the Nurse’s Home, had to be in by 10 pm, no men were allowed, they had to work very hard, and if they mar­ried they had to leave.  They didn’t have much train­ing and didn’t have much idea of what they had to do — but they had fun!

Nursing has changed so much since then, but they had parties, gave con­certs, and there was a Prize Giving, some­thing that doesn’t happen now.

In 1971, Barbara decided to become a mid­wife and came to Sheffield Jessop’s Hospital.  In Sheffield, she found the buses very puzz­ling.  Where did the ‘Circular’ go to?

The ‘Intake’ bus invited you to get on, but where did you get off?  What was the ‘Halfway’ bus half way to?  She also found that in Jessop’s Hospital there was a lovely statue of a mother and chil­dren, but some people were scan­dal­ised and wanted it removed because the mother in the statue was not wear­ing a wed­ding ring!

Barbara later worked abroad in Switzerland and Canada then came back to Sheffield to work at the Royal Hospital in the Renal Transplant depart­ment.  (She was involved in the first Transplant Olympics in 1978 and the second Olympics in 1979.)

The Royal Hospital was later sched­uled to close, so the depart­ment was moved to the Hallamshire Hospital on 29th October 1978.  There was a dis­tress­ing case when a trans­plant patient was moved in a fur­niture van and unfor­tu­nately died.

Barbara became a teacher, took time off from 1984 to 1991, and then went back to work with the hos­pice move­ment with Dame Cicely Saunders and Professor Eric Wilkes at St. Luke’s Hospice.  She worked for 18 years in Palliative Care edu­ca­tion.

In 2008 she moved to Sheffield Hallam University to run a degree course in Palliative Care, and has been a volun­teer at St. Luke’s Hospice for 25 years.

Barbara ended her talk by encour­aging every­one to talk more openly about death, dying and bereave­ment.  She asked if we all were car­ry­ing a Donor Card?  Had we all planned our funer­als, or at least left inform­a­tion about our wishes and pref­er­ences?

Had we left a digital legacy — telling our next of kin our inter­net pass­word etc. so they could find any inform­a­tion that we may have left online?  Had we all arranged an L.P.A (Lasting Power of Attorney)?

This was a very inform­at­ive, enjoy­able talk, extremely well delivered by an impress­ive lady, who does not look any­where near the ‘grave’ in the title of her talk!