People's History of the NHS


Portrait of Heather Glasford

My parents came to the UK- not from Jamaica which is often associated the Windrush generation. My father came from St. Kitts and my mother from Barbados who met married and had their children of which I am the eldest. My father came to England at the age of nineteen with no intention to stay. This didn’t happen and England became his home which he has no regrets. As for my mother she had no real desire to go back to Barbados and saw England as her home.

I currently work for Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) as a Continuing Healthcare (CHC) Nurse Specialist. I’ve been working for the CCG since 2012. Prior to my role as a CHC assessor I worked as a Health visitor In Birmingham and London.

I’ve been in the NHS since 1980. I did my registered general nursing training at Sandwell General Hospital and went on to train and work as a midwife and mental health nurse.

I use to say to people I came into nursing by default until one day I had an appreciation of what I had achieved in the NHS tell myself ‘If you look at everything you’ve done, considering you’ve done it by default, you’ve been quite successful!’

My journey into nursing started at the age of eighteen. It was the first time I had left home. It was a time of mixed emotions a bit of excitement and dread because it was a new experience into independent living the adult world and making decisions. A daunting experience at the time which I did actually embrace and survived!! This helped me to go onto take on other challenges and opportunities that came my way in the NHS.

I’m not really too sure how I came into nursing! What I do recall is that when I was in school I had a meeting arrange with the ‘careers advisors’ which I needed to come armed with some idea of what I wanted to do after leaving school. I really didn’t have any idea of the career options available to me at the time. I had an aunt who worked as a nurse in London. I remember her visiting our house and I began to ask her questions about what she did and became intrigued!! I thought ‘Oh, she’s a nurse!’ it seemed a rewarding and quite a glamourous occupation.

Later on I met someone who worked as a nurse. She worked as an enrolled nurse. At the time I did not realise there were different types of nurses: registered and enrolled nursing. Been of an inquisitive mind I asked her what were the differences between the two levels of nursing. To how she explained it I understood it simply that one route involved one year longer to study. Thinking logically it made more sense at the time to spend an extra year and qualify as a staff nurse.

What I later discovered during my training a lot of the enrolled nurse trainees and qualified nurses were black. This prompted me to ask ‘why this was?’ and discovered many of these nurses had similar academic qualifications for entry into registered nursing training but had been steered toward enrolled nursing.

Once qualified as a registered nurse I felt I was not suited to ward work, doctors ward rounds! I left the and left shortly after qualifying. I wanted autonomy in how I worked so trained and worked as a registered midwife at Walsall Manor Hospital. There I worked and met some lovely people and in some cases lasting friendships. I often had itchy feet, always looking out for the next venture. The opportunity occurred for me to go to London where I completed my registered mental health and Health visiting training.

There was a time I contemplated leaving the NHS and undertook other academic studies with the intention of making a career change. I soon came to realise my experience in the NHS had essentially been positive and I was fortunate to have meet some lovely people, patients and their carers’ along the way. I think people would describe me as always professional with sensitivity and integrity.

I feel quite fortunate to have gone into the NHS when I did when nursing was not just an occupation but for me and many others a desire to make a difference to the lives of patients, vulnerable with empathy.

All photographs copyright of Inès Elsa Dalal © 2019 Commissioned by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, 2018. No photographs or text may be referenced or published elsewhere, without prior permission

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