Award winning mental health nurse retires after 66 years

Worthing mental health nurse Aileen Coomber formally retired this month after 66 years of service to the NHS.

Aileen is a nurse at Shepherd House Recovery Unit in Worthing which is run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which provides mental health and learning disability healthcare across the South East.

Aileen joined the NHS aged 15. Starting her career as a nursing cadet, Aileen went on to become a Registered Mental Health Nurse in 1976 at St James' University Hospital in Leeds before moving to Worthing in 1981 where she worked at the Acre Day Hospital. Seeking a new challenge, Aileen then started working at Shepherd House where she worked for over 10 years.

Aileen is a hugely valued member of the team. Matron at Shepherd House, Sarah Cramp, said: 'I first worked with Aileen 20 years ago when I was a newly qualified nurse. She always supported me and taught me how important it is to be kind to everyone you meet.  Her resilience and inner strength is a constant inspiration to me.'

Aileen's commitment and dedication to her work has been recognised in recent years with a Pride of Britain Award, a The One Show Lifetime Achievement Award and a Lifetime Achievement award at Sussex Partnership's Positive Practice Awards.  Aileen also featured in ITV's NHS Heroes series to mark 70 years of the NHS last year. 

Sussex Partnership Chief Executive, Sam Allen, said: 'I wish Aileen every happiness in her retirement. Her tremendous commitment to the NHS, patients and her colleagues is an inspiration for us all and we are so grateful for her contribution. Aileen has shown that nursing is a career for life, a career that can take you anywhere and one which is not just hugely rewarding but also exciting!'

Aileen has had a varied career and seen the NHS grow and change into the essential public service it is today. Aileen took the opportunity when she moved to Worthing to spend some time volunteering in India to experience providing healthcare in other parts of the world and see what learning she could bring into her own practice.

Aileen said: 'For me, our health service is the pride of the nation, the greatest gift in the Western World. I feel privileged to have worked within it and to have stepped into the lives of so many people. I had the ultimate honour last year of carrying the original NHS Manifest on a cushion down the aisle of Westminster Abbey as we celebrated 70 years of the NHS. My granddaughter, Lola, who is just 6 years old, was able to come along on the day and present a posy of flowers to Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex. This was a particularly special moment. '

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