NHS at 70: staff and patients pay tribute to ‘best thing in the world’ – as it happened

Marthy Bonnerjea, volunteer: ‘It’s nice to feel a wee bit useful’

Marthy Bonnerjea, volunteer in the emergency department.
Marthy Bonnerjea, volunteer in the emergency department. Photograph: Linda Nylind/Guardian

Bonnerjea, 88, started volunteering at King’s College hospital after her husband, Rene, died aged 96. He had been treated at the hospital, and Bonnerjea says she was inspired to volunteer after seeing how hard the doctors and nurses worked.

“When I took my husband here every week the staff were so nice and kind. They went out of their way to help, but they were very overworked, so it inspired me to try to help,” she says.

Bonnerjea now spends one day a week helping in haematology and A&E. “It’s nice to feel a wee bit useful,” she says, adding that her daily jobs include helping out with administrative tasks, making tea and coffee for patients and directing people to various places in the hospital if they are lost.

The sprightly 88-year-old also talks to patients, lending a listening ear. “I remember one old lady and I felt very happy about helping her,” she says, a smile spreading across her face.

“She had very high blood pressure and no one could bring it down. I went in and started asking her questions and she told me about her family history her life … As she was talking her blood pressure went down and down and down.

“I just sat there listening as she was talking … I think she just needed to relax. She lived on her own and had bottled up a lot of things. She must have been over 70. The doctors were really happy that I could help out.”

Leslie Gabriel, superintendent radiographer: ‘It is the major trauma that stays with you’

Leslie Gabriel, superintendent radiographer at King’s College hospital in south London.
Leslie Gabriel, superintendent radiographer at King’s College hospital in south London. Photograph: Alicia Canter/Guardian

I was here for the two terror attacks, when I was a junior I was there for the Admiral Duncan bombing. You see the devastation people can inflict on other people. But it goes back to why you come into the job, to help people, and the satisfaction is seeing how you work together as a multi-discipline team.

Gabriel has spent the day doing scans himself as well as preparing staff for an expert panel.

At the moment one of the major challenges is staffing, persuading our junior colleagues to stay with us, stay engaged with the job, but the market forces, the pressure of the job and the cost of living in London can have a huge impact.



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