NHS 75 years: The unsung heroes who've dedicated their life to Britain's health service

As the NHS celebrates its 75th year, health workers in the Midlands have shared their memories and stories with ITV News Central. Credit: ITV News Central

As the NHS celebrates its 75th year, health workers in the Midlands have shared their memories and stories with ITV News.

At the heart of the NHS is the compassionate staff who play many different roles in helping people, and from all walks of life. 

The NHS was started to provide free healthcare to everyone in this country, following the Second World War.

A total of 86% of GPs in the country signed up straight away.

The NHS has seen huge advances, many of which have been pioneered in our region.

  • 'I never realised that 50 years later I would still be nursing' says Loraine Priest who has worked for the NHS for 50 years

Loraine Priest is this year marking her 50th year working in the NHS.

She works as a Senior Infection and Prevention Control Nurse and is based at Bushey Fields Hospital in Dudley.

She has worked in the Black Country throughout her career in a range of nursing roles, having started as a 16-year-old.

Loraine said: "I've worked in the NHS for quite a while now, I first started as a cadet back in 1973."

"I decided I wanted to be a nurse with my friend when we were 14 years old.

"The careers advisors tried to talk us into being a hairdresser, or a retail assistant, but we were determined we wanted to be nurses."

  • 'I look after the most seriously-injured patients' says Dr Justine Lee who has worked for the NHS for 11 years

Dr Justine Lee is a major trauma specialist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust.

She said: "I've been in the NHS for about 11 years now. I came to Birmingham because I was deployed as part of the military set-up we have to treat injured soldiers from around the world."

Dr Lee first started off as a dentist, but towards the end of her dentistry degree felt she wanted to do volunteer work.

She added: "At the time, the military were recruiting, and luckily, they took me on."

Dr Lee left the forces 11 years ago and has since been instrumental as part of the Major Trauma Service in Birmingham, applying the learning of treating injured service personnel and translating that into treating civilians in the NHS, saving the lives of people across the region who experience a traumatic injury such as gun or stab wounds.

  • 'I led the first Covid ward in Birmingham' says Natasha Salmon who has worked for the NHS for 13 years

After becoming a mum at the young age of 15, Natasha Salmon joined the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust as a healthcare assistant and then went through nurse training.

When the pandemic hit, Natasha led the first covid ward at the trust, despite having only been in a leadership role for two weeks.

She said: "I always wanted to become a nurse, but because I was a young mum, I didn't think that I could.

"Ultimately what inspired me is wanting to help people, I can't imagine ever doing any other job.

"We are 13 years now into my NHS career and I look forward to another 13 years."

Natasha is now a matron and says the biggest challenge the service is facing right now is staffing.

"A big part of my job includes the governance and management of staffing," she added.

"It's difficult, it's something I have to mitigate daily to ensure that each of my ward areas are as safe as possible."

  • 'I started in the NHS when I was 16 years old and, 49 years later, I don't know where the time has gone' says Laurence Wells who has worked for the NHS for 49 years

Laurence Wells is a hospital chef who has dedicated 49 years of his life to caring for others.

The 65-year-old started as a trainee cook when he was just 16 years old at St George’s Hospital in Lincoln.

Many of his family members also worked in the NHS throughout his life, and now it's a family team in the kitchens at Lincoln County Hospital where Laurence works with his nephew and cousin.

He said: "The biggest reward in my job is helping patients get better because food is the second most thing after the operating theatres.

"The NHS to me means caring, hard work and dedication.

"There have been so many changes over the years with equipment and locations, but at the heart of it all is our patients and that is why we all do what we do."

  • 'At 84, I have no plans to stop working - I love helping patients too much' says Peter 'Snowy' Quinlan who has worked for the NHS for 23 years

Peter ‘Snowy’ Quinlan is a porter at Lincoln County Hospital and has been for 23 years.

He said: "I love my job because the lads I'm working with are absolutely brilliant.

"There are no real challenges for me on the job, it's all a pleasure.

"If I could have a magic wand now, there would be more money behind me to pay for another 75 years of the NHS.

"The people who work here are excellent, I can't fault anyone bit."

Staff at the hospital say Snowy not only brightens up the day for patients but also for NHS colleagues that he meets throughout his shift.

  • "I think I've got the best job in the world, it's incredibly rewarding"

Ifti Majid is the Chief Exec of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

He started his career in the NHS straight after finishing school.

He said: "I think I've got the best job in the world, it's incredibly rewarding"

"I started my career in the NHS straight from school and I decided I wanted to become a mental health nurse because of an experience I had on the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme where I spent some time working with people with learning disabilities.

"In three words I'd describe the NHS as rewarding, reliable and at times high pressure." he added.

  • "I'd describe the NHS in three words by saying it's skilled caring and inclusive."

Rashmika Shah works as a health visitor for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.

At 61-years-old, she has had a varied career working as a nurse in A&E, a midwife, a cardiac research nurse and now a health visitor.

She has worked for the NHS since she was 18-years-old in 1980, after always wanting to be a nurse.

She says her highlights include delivering her first baby when she was training to be a midwife.

"I'd describe the NHS in three words by saying it's skilled caring and inclusive."

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