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As this year marks the 75th anniversary of the National Health Service, it was wonderful to welcome two nurses to our Archives last week, Susan and Diane, who both trained at the Nursing School at Rossendale General Hospital in the early 1980’s.

They asked to see a photograph album donated in 2015 to The Whitaker that shows photographs and newspaper clippings from 1974 – 1983 from Rossendale General Hospital and we were more than happy to oblige!

As they looked through the album, they began to recognise the people and faces staring back at them and stories came flying; anecdotes and happy memories filled the room and as they flicked through the pages, both women delightedly found themselves in the photographs! 

Susan and Diane, who were aged 18 and 19 respectively in the pictures, started to reminisce about their uniforms; how they owned 10 white uniforms and had to wear brown moccasins, an underskirt and a grey belt which was replaced with a green one once qualified, along with a badge that was engraved. They described the ward as strict and that the job was taken very seriously but also remember that time as one of the happiest of their lives and indeed, it’s clear to see the camaraderie that exudes from the images.  

Although both Susan and Diane had left the ward by 1984, they have remained friends for life; attending each other’s weddings, birthdays, children’s christenings and many other life milestones. Susan joyfully exclaimed that; “our colleagues all had compassion and were caring, the job was so rewarding, we helped people and tried to make them feel better.”

Rossendale General Hospital began as part of the workhouse in the 1860’s and the infirmary buildings have now been demolished. This story allows us to reflect on the legacy of the NHS; the importance of it as an institution, the hard-work, care and compassion that nurses like Susan and Diane bring to these institutions and we can question how this might continue when thinking about what the future holds for the NHS.

Susan (left) and Diane (right) looking through the photographs

The first set of images shows Diane in the 80’s and the second set show Susan. 

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