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Devoted hospital staff clock up more than 700 years’ service

In a year when service to the health of the nation has been in clear focus, our hospital is celebrating a group of colleagues who have, between them, given more than 700 years combined service. 

Forty-three members of staff at our Hospital, are to receive long-service awards.

Nurses, housekeeping, catering, estates, and office staff are being recognised and celebrated through the awards, but this will happen without a formal ceremony because of the need to maintain social distancing. 

Jane Abbott is Chief Nurse and Director at Benenden Hospital: 

“In 2020 the pandemic has shone a light on the amazing work of nurses and supporting colleagues, and there is one common thread that runs through healthcare, whether in the private sector or the NHS and that is one of total devotion to caring and service. 

“While we’re unable to present the awards in a formal ceremony, that doesn’t detract from the duty we have to recognise colleagues who have given so many years’ service, and say thank you to each of them.” 

Colleagues receiving the long-service awards have a wealth of stories to accompany their time working at the hospital, from meeting their future husband on the wards to attending royal celebrations. 

Leading the long-service awards are Liz Bartholomew, Lesley Higham, and Jackie Friday. They’ve each clocked up 35 years’ service to Benenden Hospital and Liz, who began as a catering assistant in 1984, recalls one unlikely tradition of Benenden Hospital. 

“‘Running the Christmas Pudding’ was one of the strangest hospital traditions I’ve come across or taken part in,” said Liz Bartholomew, who worked her way up to become a Catering Co-ordinator and eventually moved to Health Records where she still works. 

“It involved running around the hospital dining room carrying a flaming Christmas pudding, and while I’m not sure of the origins of this, I’m fairly certain we wouldn’t be able to do it today!” 

For nurse Lesley Higham, 35 years has been a little longer time than she intended staying at Benenden Hospital when she set out as an Enrolled Nurse. 

“I only ever planned to stay at Benenden Hospital for five years but here I am, 35 years later, with fond memories of initially living on site for six years, being a part of the Benenden community and the personal highlight of my time here was when I represented the hospital at the Queen Mother’s Birthday party in London’s St James’ Park, the Queen Mum was Patron of the hospital.” 

A total of nineteen members of staff, who’ve each given 10 years’ service to Benenden Hospital, are also among the 43 being recognised. 

Kate Minett is among them and says once she joined the hospital team, she knew she didn’t want to work anywhere else. 

But in late 2011, Kate’s husband was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and she handed in her resignation. However, the hospital suggested Kate should join the hospital’s nursing “bank” and with that, she knew she would have a job to return to.  

Since that time, Kate has raised more than £25,000 for Pancreatic Cancer UK through trekking, cake sales and dinner dances. 

“The support of colleagues helped keep me going in those dark days and I returned to work in early 2012. I owe it to my ‘Benenden family’ for helping me keep my head above water during the subsequent years.” 

Emma Irons wasn’t planning to stay long when she joined the hospital in 1995, but had she followed her head and stayed only for that short time, her personal life might have taken a different turn. 

“I began working at the hospital as a Ward Hostess and it’s where I met my husband who was a patient here, so I’m certainly glad I stayed,” said Emma. 

Emma’s role has changed since those early days and she’s now in charge of hospital catering stores and while her role has changed, the training subsequently provided for her by the hospital has seen Emma enhance her computer skills and achieve NVQ qualifications. 

“It’s humbling that colleagues have seen fit to devote so much of their careers to working at Benenden Hospital. It’s these examples of caring and devotion that make the hospital such a special place to work,” said Jane Abbott.


Published on 05 December 2020