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Gloucestershire Business News

Celebrating 50 years of nursing care at St Faith’s

Fifty years ago today (March 26), St Faith's in Cheltenham became the first nursing home for Gloucestershire charity Lilian Faithfull Care. 

It has been changing and developing ever since.

To celebrate this golden anniversary, long-serving staff shared their memories and today's nursing team gave an insight into the highly skilled nurse-led care of 2024.

Carer Wendy Heeks has worked at St Faith's for over 45 years of its 50-year history as a nursing home and remembers what it was like in the early days.

Wendy said: "When I started when I was 17 years old, dementia was not spoken about, it was just explained as 'confused'. There were three floors here and each had one five-bedded and one six-bedded ward.

"The wards had a concertina door into a day room with a bay window. We didn't even have a hoist. We had to use strips of calico sheets under people to lift them.

"There were two nurses and a matron who was strict, but a really lovely woman, called Evelyn Newell. They did everything - even all the admin and wages.

"We wore dresses, plain blue with white piping and white belts and white starched hats. Carers had so much responsibility and you never went sick."

Today, the wards are long gone. The home now has 58 ensuite rooms and end-of-life care suites, the latest equipment and specialised dementia care. What remains is the family ethos. There is a focus on home comforts, and families can visit at any time.

Receptionist Ellen Pockett has worked at St Faith's for 30 years and her family have been connected for much longer, as her mum, Peggy, was one of the first cleaners at St Faith's.

Ellen said: "It's always been very family orientated here. I remember Mrs Newell would ring mum up and say 'could you come in and just make some beds?' and mum would pop by. Mum is now 90 and she still meets up for lunch with a few of the others who worked here - Shirley from laundry, Derek the handyman and Lou, one of the carers."

Ellen hasn't always been on reception.

She said: "I came when my girls were very little, and I actually did the hair here. The whole building has changed for the better over the time I've been here. It is still a family here, otherwise we wouldn't have stayed!"

Home manager, Teresa Weis, qualified as a nurse over 46 years ago.

Teresa said: "The nursing here has developed so much from when I first came to St Faith's in 2001. The residents we look after now have complex nursing needs that would have previously required hospital care.

"We now have a lot of admissions straight from hospital. It has become rare we get anyone from home. We have an incredibly skilled team of 12 nurses and 50 carers and it is much better for the residents. Although it is a large nursing home, all the staff here are on first name terms.

"We look after people holistically. We aren't just looking at the medical issues that need attention, but looking at how it is affecting the whole person."

The St Faith's nursing team is active in training the next generation of nurses, paramedics and other healthcare professionals. It is the first nursing home in the county to offer the opportunity for carers to train and qualify as nursing associates. For the past eight years, it has been working in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire, supporting degree students on placements in the home.

Pauline Okposi, St Faith's clinical nurse lead, has been part of these initiatives from the start.

Pauline said: "We started our partnership with the university supporting student nurses, and it has been so successful that this has expanded now to include paramedics and physiotherapy students.

"When we explain what we do in a nursing home, a lot of students are very surprised. The thing that shocks them the most is the fact we are autonomous, as the doctor isn't in every day unless we call them. The nursing students don't believe it!"

Pauline herself is working towards a master's qualification in nursing studies and has found inspiration from her colleagues and the students. She also teaches on the charity's staff induction week and supports the student nurse associates programme, which enables carers to train to become nurses.

Pauline continued: "The student nurse associate programme is another big development here. Sarah, who started as a carer, was the first to do the course and she has now joined the nursing team. She is growing all the time and doing really well.

"Soon she will go for her top-up course and become a fully qualified nurse. We have another carer who has started the course now. It is a good way for people getting into the nursing profession, when perhaps they didn't get the chance when they were young."

Sarah Ellis, St Faith's first nurse associate, said: "It was hard, as I hadn't been in education for years. But I learned a lot and I'm still learning every day. I like the atmosphere here. You get to know the residents and I like the personal side of it. I couldn't have done it if I hadn't been offered an apprenticeship through the charity."

Suzanne Booker, director of care at Lilian Faithfull Care, has been with the charity for nearly 30 years. She said: "I think the biggest changes over the 50-year history is that nursing care is now given in a one-to-one personalised way. All the developments have also made a big difference to residents' privacy and dignity.

"There is a now strong focus on wellbeing for both our residents and staff. As a family, you are now welcomed into St Faith's. You can be there 24 hours a day if you want to be. It has always been a family here and it is these family values which haven't changed over the 50 years of nursing care."

Find out more about St Faith's home here: www.lilianfaithfull.co.uk/our-homes/st-faiths.

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