Worthing nurse chosen for key role at Abbey

Aileen Coomber, 81, has dedicated her life to the NHS, giving 65 years' service to date
Aileen Coomber, 81, has dedicated her life to the NHS, giving 65 years' service to date

Worthing nurse Aileen Coomber will play a key role at Westminster Abbey, in the national celebration marking 70 years of the NHS.

Aileen, 81, has been asked to carry the original NHS Manifesto, which kick-started national health care as we know it today, at a special service on Thursday, July 5.

A mental health nurse at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s in-patient recovery unit, Shepherd House, in Worthing, Aileen has dedicated her life to the NHS, giving 65 years’ service to date.

She said: “I feel humbled, privileged, excited and honoured to be given this role. It is a huge honour to be asked to be involved. I’ve worked in the NHS all my life and nursing is the core of who I am. I have had the opportunity in my life to see the full value of the NHS.

“I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to join the NHS as a nursing scholar at the age of 15, three days after the introduction of the NHS. For me, our health service is the pride of the nation, the greatest gift in the western world. To still be able to do this at 81 years old is brilliant.

“I remember life before it with my mum not always being able to afford to take us to see the doctor when we were children. It was such a different time and I am so grateful for the change the NHS has brought to so many people.

“The NHS makes healthcare a right for people in the UK and enables even the most vulnerable to access excellent care, which is just as it should be. I am so proud to be part of the NHS and to have this opportunity to celebrate the anniversary. I feel very privileged to be asked to be involved in this way and am looking forward to celebrating with friends and colleagues.”

The celebration, hosted by NHS England and NHS Improvement, will reflect on the beginnings of the NHS, 70 years of service to communities across England and look forward to the future of the health service.

Staff from across the country will attend the event, being held on the official anniversary date. Among them will be 18 staff from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who have been involved in the 70 for 70 campaign, sharing personal stories and reflections on the NHS.

Dan Shotton, a social worker helping older adults with mental health needs in Brighton and Hove, said: “It’s a real honour to get this opportunity to celebrate the NHS 70th anniversary. I’m looking forward to celebrating its past and being part of shaping its future.”

The Sussex Partnership will mark the anniversary separately with the Big7tea, a series of tea party events, including a garden party at the Swandean headquarters in Worthing and another at Shepherd House. Funds raised will go to the trust’s charity, Heads On.

For more information about Sussex Partnership’s 70 for 70 campaign visit www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/70-for-70

To find out how you can hold your own Big7Tea and support Heads On visit www.headsoncharity.org/events