A nurse who was trained at King’s College Hospital when the NHS was launched says she remembers that time as among the ‘happiest years of her life’.
Frances Gompertz, 90, started her four-year training course at King’s in 1945, just as the Second World War was coming to a close. At that time, all trainees lived in hospital accommodation and there were strict rules governing their free time.
“We had all our meals together,” said Mrs Gompertz. “The sister sat at the top of the table and if the sister had said grace already you were not allowed in. We were allowed a late pass once a week, which meant you were allowed out until 10.30pm and we used to go to the cinema or something like that.”
Mrs Gompertz said that things didn’t change too much for her and her nursing colleagues when the NHS came along in 1948.
“With the NHS, it sort of crept up on us, she said. “The hospital governors went as it was run by the NHS. Then we had a lot more patients coming in as people didn’t have to find the money to come and see a doctor.”
Becoming a nurse had been Mrs Gompertz’s childhood ambition. “Working at King’s was among the happiest years of my life,” she said. “It was a very disciplined life, but that was how I was brought up, I was happy to do what I was told. I went from boarding school to nursing – it wasn’t that different.
“In any case, I absolutely loved nursing. I just loved looking after people - people have always been my real love. I did a stint in theatres, but I soon went back to the wards, because you never knew anything about the patients. I wanted to care for people on the wards – that was where you can make connections with people.”
Mrs Gompertz said she was sorry that she gave up nursing in 1954 when she was married but at that time there were almost no married nurses.
“One of the other nurses had a fiancé in the armed the forces who was posted abroad and she wanted to marry him before he left,” added Mrs Gompertz. “She had to go to the governors for permission, and they rang his commanding officer to make sure what she said was true. She wasn’t allowed to wear her wedding ring while she worked. Things have changed now obviously, but that was how it was back then.”