Morecambe Bay nurse retires after 40-plus years working for NHS

When a teenage Gill Speight first volunteered with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade in Morecambe, she began a lifetime caring for others.

By Louise Bryning
Friday, 29th April 2022, 3:38 pm

Gill’s gone on to spend 43 years with the NHS, the last couple during a pandemic, and retires as Associate Director for Community Nursing with University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust at the end of April.

One of the major challenges she’s faced in the twilight of her career has been helping to manage the community response to Covid including establishing vaccination centres in Lancaster, Kendal and Ulverston.

“I work with a fantastic team so we were able to set up the centres very quickly,” said Gill.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Gill Speight who retires this month.

As a manager for community nursing, the pandemic meant adapting to the dangers of a deadly virus. Gill and her team had to ensure all staff had the correct PPE and they worked alongside GP colleagues and pharmacists to make sure patients could still be seen safely.

Gill took over her final role in 2018 and has been based at the Trust’s Moor Lane Mills office from where she covered the whole of the Morecambe Bay area.

Her job involved her managing community nurses as well as associated specialists such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists working with adults in the community and community wards at Furness General and Millom hospitals.

It’s all a far cry from her earliest experience of caring for others. Born and brought up in Morecambe, a young Gill first volunteered with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade at Queen Victoria Hospital.

Beginning her 43 years with the NHS, Gill Speight, aged 17, as she started work at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

She enjoyed the experience so much that when she left Morecambe High School, aged 17, she studied for a diploma in opthalmics at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

By the start of the 80s, Gill returned to North Lancashire to begin her nurse training at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary before completing her district nurse training and working in the community from 1985.

“I really enjoyed the whole experience of working in the community,” said Gill. “Caring for people in their own home is a privilege.”

She also cared for people at St John’s Hospice as a Macmillan nurse before taking a Masters degree at Lancaster University and entering community nursing services management.

A teenage Gill Speight pictured when she volunteered with St John's Ambulance.

The increasing academic element of nursing is just one of the big changes Gill has encountered during her long career.

When she began district nursing, all medical records were kept on paper rather than computer and the introduction of mobile phones meant community nurses could keep in touch more easily than waiting at home for the landline to ring.

“I’ve enjoyed the variety of the job and developing relationships with patients in their own homes, especially those with long term conditions,” said Gill.

But after more than four decades of service, Gill is looking forward to retirement when she’ll have more time to spend with her husband, Mark, and her family including her two sons and four grandchildren.

She’s also hoping to do more travelling, walking in the Lake District and is even going to try her hand at clock making.