Sunday, June 16, 2024

Thurrock History Society: My amazing life as an A & E nurse

AT our May meeting Gary Jones gave us an interesting talk on the workings of an A & E Nurse, having joined the NHS as a cadet in 1969, working up to Head of A & E Nursing at Orsett. He described his work at the hospital, also his personal experience at roadside emergencies. He was involved in the development of paramedics at Orsett Hospital A & E and in the early 1970s started a mobile accident team, described as Thurrock’s 4th emergency service.

Gary spoke of various accidents he attended including a West Thurrock worker trapped at the top of an industrial chimney in poor weather and a lorry hanging over a road barrier. He also experienced a terrifying journey on the A128 in the snow to trapped motorists and another where a pole had gone through a man’s chest, where his clothing acted as a seal.

When Tilbury celebrated 500 years since Queen Elizabeth I gave her speech it was a hot weekend and a complete mobile service was set up to deal with the crowds – mainly fainting and dehydration due to the heavy costumes. There were regular exercises at Stansted airport, the PLA and Shell Haven and also practices on the M25 just before it opened. A recreation of the Herald of Free Enterprise accident was very realistic, using a mobile team from Orsett.

In 1986 Casualty started on the BBC, at first only showing night duty and they looked at A & E at Bristol as an example. The NHS invited the BBC to their conference to listen to nurses and Gary was involved. At Orsett A & E at that time there was only a junior casualty officer, with no consultants. It was thought the programme would not last, but temporary buildings at White City were replaced by a permanent structure in Bristol. After series three Gary became involved again when they expanded to show day and night casualties, using a mobile accident team. They looked for stories, which Gary supplied, including an accident at Grays in 1977 involving hydrochloric acid. Gary made friends with the cast, especially Charlie Fairhead (now 75), inspired by real nurse Peter Salt.

After leaving the NHS in 1992 Gary went back in a consulting role. Over the years paramedic training expanded; at first they only did basic first aid. Now they are a profession in their own right with more of a team approach between doctors, nurses and paramedics. Gary is still involved and teaching, whilst enjoying retirement. This was an insight into the workings of part of our National Health Service which so many of us take for granted.

Our new season of lectures starts in September at St John’s Church Hall, Victoria Avenue, Grays. Further details will be shown on our website: thurrock-history.org.uk.

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