IT is the dedicated staff who have enabled the NHS to provide care to so many patients for so long.

This summer, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust presented a long service award to Horton General Hospital staff nurse Cheryl Pascoe who has looked after patients for more than half the lifespan of the health service.

Over 40 years the 61-year-old has seen vast changes to front-line care as well as patients.

However, over her four decades Mrs Pascoe says the one thing that must remain constant for staff is to keep hold of the passion and compassion which is vital to a job in nursing.

She said: “It’s interesting; we considered patients in their 70s elderly once upon a time.

“Now, with people living longer, it’s moved up to mid-80s and 90s.

“Demographics and increased life expectancy has had a huge impact on the resources offered by the NHS.

“Accident and emergency departments are busier, too.

“When I first worked at the Horton General Hospital in 1986, the casualty department was locked at night and patients had to ring a bell to be let in.

“Only one nurse manned the department overnight, and if she saw six patients it was a busy night.”

Mrs Pascoe began her pre-nursing training as a 16-year-old at Oxpens College of Further Education in Oxford in 1973, before enrolling in State Registered Nursing School.

She said: “My mother was a State Enrolled Nurse.

“She had a lot of respect from family and friends because she was a nurse, and I admired her for that.

“Nurses were seen as good people, and all I ever wanted to do was be like my Mum and look after people.”

The role of nursing has changed ‘dramatically’, since the 70s says Mrs Pascoe.

The introduction of health care assistants has led to more administrative work being passed onto the nurses.

While there is now somewhat of an overlap between the work of the original ward sister, junior doctors and staff nurses.

Now working as a part-time staff nurse on the Women’s Day Care Unit at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury, Mrs Pascoe, says she still enjoys her career because she has held onto that passion for caring for patients.

She said: “I love my new post.

“It’s doing what I do best – caring for people, and it makes me so happy.

“Having the time to do my job well is rewarding, too, and I love working with the incredibly professional doctors and nurses we have here at the Trust.

“I feel very positive for the future, and hope to stay here for several more years.

“I’ve had an amazing career over the past 40 years – I wouldn’t be doing it now if I didn’t enjoy it.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you have compassion, determination, and you’re willing to work hard, it’s the best career.”