A woman dubbed the “stalwart of St Andrew’s” has celebrated her 42nd year working at the charity hospital which is based in Northampton.
Lesley Deacon, who works in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) as a Healthcare Assistant (HCA), started at the hospital in 1980 aged just 17.
St Andrew’s Healthcare is a charity providing specialist mental healthcare for patients with some of the most complex, challenging mental health needs in the UK.
Picking up her Long Service award for 40 years, she said: “Back then HCAs were known as Nursing Assistants because that was your job, you assisted the nurses.
“At the time I decided I wanted a job that meant I could help someone. I was fortunate enough to have had a good life, with wonderful parents and grandparents and I wanted to give something back.”
When Lesley first started her career, she began working with dementia patients where she recalls forming a close bond with an older gentleman called Patrick.
She said: “He could be violent, so many of the staff at the time were a bit cautious of him. I remember I was changing him one day and out of nowhere, he hit me on the head. I looked at him and said ‘why did you do that? I’m trying to help you’. He held my gaze and then rubbed my head.
“From that day onwards he was like my shadow. We had a close bond and when he eventually died I was pretty heartbroken. But his family told me how much they had appreciated the care I had given him and when you hear things like that, that’s what makes the job worthwhile.”
After 2.5 years with the charity, Lesley moved to CAMHS, at the time known as Adolescent Services, and that is where she has worked ever since.
Currently, based on Stowe ward, Lesley says her “claim to fame” in 1989 was becoming the first B Grade HCA at St Andrew’s, which was the introduction to grading within the organisation.
When asked why she has stayed at St Andrew’s for so long, she said:
“It’s a great place to work with really dedicated, warm and friendly people. Also, I get a lot of out of this job.
“I feel if I can help just one person leave the hospital and go on to live a happy and fulfilling life, then I’ve done my job and that makes me feel good. I have always wanted to make a difference and I think I do here. I genuinely think if you love and enjoy your job then you will have complete work satisfaction.”
Dale Goodacre, who is Head of Nursing for CAMHS, said:
“Lesley’s commitment to her work, her patients and the charity is admirable and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her commitment. We’ve dubbed her the stalwart of St Andrew’s.
“Forty years with one organisation is no mean feat and if we were to compare her time with us in marriage terms, that it seems quite fitting to congratulate her on the ruby anniversary with us. Sadly, we couldn’t stretch to a ruby ring, but I hope she realises how much we appreciate her.”