Posted on: 1 July 2024

In tribute to the 76th anniversary of the NHS, we asked some colleagues to reflect on the multiple generations of their families who have worked for the NHS since it started.

Sometimes it just runs in the family. Within the 1.5 million staff employed by the NHS, many have relatives who have worked with the organisation for decades. CNWL staff have been thinking about the experiences of these relatives, looking at how things have changed and why healthcare seems to run in their families.

CNWL’s Chief Psychologist, Dr Christopher Whiteley, and Gloria Aldridge, Perinatal Clinical Nurse Manager, have roots in the NHS going all the way back to its inception.

NHS family 2.jpgGloria: My mother and her identical twin sister (see right) did their State Registered Nursing training together at Royal Victoria Hospital, Folkestone in 1948. They later did their midwifery training in London in a place called the Mother’s hospital. My mother passed away when she was only 47 but my aunt tells me it was very much like the show, Call the Midwife – the fictional nursing convent in that is actually based on a place they worked just around the corner from.Chris Generations.JPG

Christopher: My nan was in the RAF forces during the Second World War. I’m not sure if she was involved in healthcare then but she trained as a nurse in the late 1940s. I’m proud to think that someone from my family has been in the NHS ever since it started. I was recently shown some pictures of my nan in her nursing uniform and it just looks impossible to work in – it’s like something out of a Doris Day movie!

See right: Christopher holding a picture of his nan wearing her uniform.

Both Christopher and Kim Cox, Director of Nursing for Jameson Division, reflected on how women’s rights had changed the experience of nursing over the past 70 years.

Christopher: There never used to be maternity leave so when my nan got pregnant she had to leave that position and there was no way of getting back into it. It’s so peculiar when you look at it now – if there was no maternity leave so many staff wouldn’t be able to stay with the NHS!

Kim: When my mum was a nurse, I wanted to follow in her footsteps but my family kept telling me I should be a doctor instead. Nursing wasn’t considered the profession that it is now – just a vocation. Nurses fought long and hard to receive that professional recognition. When I trained, one of the first things I was taught was how to lay up a tea tray with a doily in the exact way the medics wanted and as a student nurse I was barely allowed to even speak to a doctor!

It’s possible that these families will still have members in the NHS for decades to come:

Kim: Recently, my grandchild’s been telling me that they want to be a nurse. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, they really looked up to me and my brother, who’s a charge nurse in A&E, as these massive heroes. As young children, I suppose they were able to see everyone clapping on the street and say “that’s for my nana.” I have a feeling that one of them might veer into the health service as well.

Gloria: I never stop and think. Until I read this callout, I never thought of myself as being part of a “NHS family” but we’ve been with the organisation all the way through from 1948 until now. Before she passed, my mother co-founded the hospice in Milton Keynes – she really inspired me and I’ve worked for the NHS in MK since 1979. I’m 64 now and have just gone down to part-time hours as a step towards retirement. However, my daughter is a nurse in a children’s hospice in Sussex so our family seems to be continuing down this route for the time being.