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Celebrating 50 years of nursing care at St Faith’s

Fifty years ago today St Faith’s in Cheltenham became the first nursing home for the Gloucestershire charity Lilian Faithfull Care; it has been changing and developing ever since. To celebrate this golden anniversary long-serving staff share their memories and todays nursing team give an insight into the highly skilled nurse-led care of 2024.

St Faith’s in the early years  

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 is was like in the early days.

“When I started when I was seventeen years old, dementia was not spoken about, it was just explained as ‘confused’. There were three flours here and each had one 5 bedded and one 6 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 it is now somewhere families visit at anytime and stay. 

“It’s always been very family orientated here.”

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

“It’s always been very family orientated here. I remember Mrs Newell would ring mum up ‘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, “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 a still family here otherwise we wouldn’t have stayed!” 

 “The nursing here has developed so much”

Home manager Teresa Weis qualified as a nurse over 46 years ago.  “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 upskilled team of twelve nurses and fifty 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 have a fantastic relationship with the GPs at Overton Park Surgery and the NHS rapid response team.  We also work closely with other healthcare professionals such as social workers, speech therapists and CHC assessing nurses, it’s a multidisciplinary team.”

“We look after people holistically.  It’s looking after the whole person.  We aren’t just looking at the medical issues that need attention, but looking at how it is affecting the whole person.” 

Training the next generation

The St Faith’s nursing team are 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 and 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.

“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.”

“A lot of the students when they come in and we explain what we do in a nursing home, they are very surprised.  The thing that shocks them the most is the fact we are autonomous as the doctor isn’t in everyday unless we call them. The nursing students don’t believe it!” 

Pauline herself is working towards a Masters qualification in Nursing studies and has found inspiration from the colleagues and students, “we support in practice because we all learn from each other”. Pauline also teaches on the charity’s staff induction week and supports the student nurse associates programme which enables carers to train to become nurses.

“The student nurse associate programme is another big development here.  That’s been a really big help.  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, perhaps you didn’t get the chance when you were young.

St Faith’s first nurse associate Sarah Ellis explains; “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 people – the residents and I like the personal side of it.  I couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been offered as apprenticeship through the charity.”

“Nursing care given in a one to one personalised way”

Suzanne Booker, Director of Care at Lilian Faithfull Care has been with the charity for nearly 30 years comments; 

“I think the biggest changes over the 50 year history is that the nursing care is now given in a one to one personalised way. All the developments have also made a big difference to resident’s privacy and dignity.  There is a now strong focus on well-being 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 St Faith’s 50 years of nursing care.”

Find out more about St Faith’s home here:

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