As the NHS celebrated turning 70, a group of retired nurses visited Guy’s Hospital where they shared memories of what it was like to train there 62 years ago.
Jo Smith was one of eleven former nurses who met up at the hospital as the NHS marked the milestone on July 5.
The 80 year old, from Salisbury, was eighteen years old when she started training to be a nurse at Guy’s in 1956 – eight years after the NHS was formed.
She was one of 50 recruits who spent three months learning basic nursing skills at the Preliminary Training School based near Redhill, in Surrey.
“Every Wednesday at 7.30am a double decker bus would arrive to take us to Guy’s Hospital for lectures and to help out on the wards,” said Jo.
“We were known as ‘the lambs’ and didn’t really know what that meant at the time.
“Sister Janet would inspect us before we left to make sure we weren’t wearing any makeup and that our uniforms were smart.”
After passing her exams, Jo moved to the nurses’ home at Guy’s Hospital and worked on Addison and Astley Cooper wards.
The mother of two, who has five grandchildren, said: “It was very disciplined; we couldn’t be out after 10pm and we weren’t allowed to have a fiancé.
“The sisters were quite strict – if a bedsheet was turned down too far you had to re-make the whole bed.”
Jo left Guy’s in 1960 to complete midwifery training at Southampton before having her two sons. She then worked as a health visitor until she retired.
Arleen Gould, who turned 80 on the day of the reunion, said: “I had been to boarding school but living in the nurses’ home was a lot stricter.
“We all had jobs to do and I had to clean Sister Janet’s bathroom.
“She was nice but firm and used to pull out the plug in the sink to check underneath and if it was clean you passed. To this day I still clean underneath the plugs in my home.”
Arleen, who lives on a dairy farm in Holsworthy, Devon, grew up in Somerset before moving to London when she was eighteen to train at Guy’s.
“My father would worry about me walking through London at night so he used to give me 10 shillings for a taxi,” said the grandmother of five.
“He didn’t know this, but I used to save up the shillings so I could go on holiday.”
Arleen left the hospital in 1960 to train to become a midwife at Dulwich Hospital. She later worked as a scrub nurse in operating theatres in Taunton, Somerset, and as a practice nurse before becoming a healthcare assistant until she was almost 75.
Lorna Horman, 80, from Jersey, said: “One of my earliest memories is the porters’ office at the front entrance – the matron would check every morning to see who had arrived back after 10pm.
“We had to sign in but many of the nurses often wrote ‘Florence Nightingale’ so as not to get found out and I used to choose ‘Jane Eyre’.”
After she qualified, Lorna worked on the psychiatric unit at Guy’s and left in January 1961 to move to Guernsey, and then to Jersey.
The NHS was founded on July 5, 1948, by the then Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan.
For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella to provide services paid for by taxes but ‘free’ at the point of delivery when people needed them.