A Worthing nurse who joined the NHS aged 15 has retired after giving more than 66 years’ service, mainly working in mental health.
Aileen Coomber, 82, ended her career at Shepherd House recovery unit, which is run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
Aileen said: “For me, our health service is the pride of the nation, the greatest gift in the western world. I feel privileged to have worked within it and to have stepped into the lives of so many people.
“I had the ultimate honour last year of carrying the original NHS Manifest on a cushion down the aisle of Westminster Abbey as we celebrated 70 years of the NHS.
“My granddaughter, Lola, who is just six years old, was able to come along on the day and present a posy of flowers to Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex. This was a particularly special moment.”
She had started as a nursing cadet and became a registered mental health nurse in 1976, working at St James’ University Hospital in Leeds.
Aileen moved to Worthing in 1981 and joined the team at the Acre Day Hospital. She later spent time volunteering in India to experience healthcare in other parts of the world and see what she could bring into her own practice.
Seeking a new challenge, she then moved to Shepherd House more than 10 years ago.
Sarah Cramp, matron at Shepherd House, said: “I first worked with Aileen 20 years ago when I was a newly-qualified nurse. She always supported me and taught me how important it is to be kind to everyone you meet. Her resilience and inner strength is a constant inspiration to me.”
Aileen’s commitment and dedication have earned her a Pride of Britain Award, The One Show Lifetime Achievement Award and a lifetime achievement award at Sussex Partnership’s Positive Practice Awards.
Sam Allen, Sussex Partnership chief executive, said: “I wish Aileen every happiness in her retirement. Her tremendous commitment to the NHS, patients and her colleagues is an inspiration for us all and we are so grateful for her contribution.
“Aileen has shown that nursing is a career for life, a career that can take you anywhere and one which is not just hugely rewarding but also exciting.”
Read about a Shepherd House success story here: Worthing man’s life-changing experience with Sustainable Sussex helps his recovery from psychosis