Doncaster family with three generations of NHS workers celebrate six decades in service

  • Report by Faith Ajagbe

A family from Doncaster who have provided three generations of service to the NHS are encouraging people from different backgrounds to take part in health research.

Blanche Hines, her daughter Andrea Palmer and grandson Louis Palmer have collectively spent 60 years working in the health service.

Blanche, now 83, moved to Doncaster in 1957. At just 18, she was one of hundreds of thousands of West Indians who made their way to the UK during the Windrush generation in search of better opportunities.

During her 47-year nursing career, she worked in hospitals in South and West Yorkshire, including a spell at the Tickhill Road Hospital’s Elm Ward, before finally retiring as a colposcopy nurse in genito-urinary medicine at Leeds in 2004.

Blanche Hines moved to Doncaster in 1957 to develop a career in nursing Credit: Blanche Hines

"All my working life was spent in the NHS, I loved my time there”, she said.

Although many of those memories as a young nurse were positive, some were also painful.

"We had a lot of hassle when I first came here from patients and visitors. Sometimes I used to lock myself in the bathroom and cry."

"You know you had to stand up for yourself, which I didn't do. I used to do a lot of crying. I suppose I felt sorry for myself."

Nevertheless, her daughter Andrea Palmer, 58, says she was inspired by her mother to care for others. She began her career at Doncaster Royal Infirmary in 1990 before moving into local practice nursing.

Andrea Palmer forged a similar career to her mother working as a midwife and nurse Credit: Andrea Palmer

"I think there must be something engrained because my grandma as well was also a nurse. There must be that caring aspect there in the first place," she said.

Blanche's grandson Louis, 26, has also forged a career in the NHS, completing a degree in neuroscience in 2017. He is now a member of the research team at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDash), where his grandmother began her career.

He says her experiences with racism are hard to accept.

"It's really sad, and it's quite surprising actually because I haven't heard that side," he said. "Despite these experiences, nan has always told us some of the positive stories about the NHS and some of the nice people she has come across."

"It's not really nice to hear she's had those experiences because of the colour of her skin really - because she was different to the people and families she was caring for."

He does, however, say it is encouraging to see that things are changing and that it is now much easier to work for the NHS as a person of colour.

Working as the research teams lead for ethnic minority inclusion, he said there can be even more work done to get more people involved from the black community in health research.