VAL Waller is celebrating an incredible 50 years working for NHS services across Barnsley.
Back in 1972, when she started, aged just 17, a pint of milk was 6p and a gallon of petrol was 34p – a far cry from today’s cost-of-living crisis which is forcing the worst-off in society into making heartbreaking decisions.
Young men were going about in Paisley shirts, girls were wearing satin hot pants from C and A and Slade, Donny Osmond and Cher were topping the charts.
She said: “My mum worked at the old Beckett’s Hospital on Church Lane in the town centre and said there was a job going.
“I applied and was unsuccessful, but then got a letter saying the lady who had got the job had backed out so I got in by default…”
Val was first a secretary in the Beckett’s laboratories, greeting patients and booking them into appointments.
“They came in for blood tests and I had to write their details in a ‘day book’ – I was earning £6 a week.
“I worked on my own in an office at the top of Beckett’s that was really spooky.
“It had a big cupboard full of medical specimens in jars; this was way before the Human Tissue Act which governs how human organs and tissues are stored.
“I also went into the hospital’s mortuary, which was a bit of a shock, as I was only 17.
“But I’d always wanted to be a nurse so I liked the medical part of the job.”
In 1977, she moved up to the ‘new’ hospital on Gawber Road where it still stands today – much-changed now to what first met Val.
She says the main changes in the NHS over the years are computerisation and workplace changes like hot-desking.
“It was a new hospital then and pathology was the first department to open – I worked on my own but kept in touch with my friends from Beckett’s.
“They turned out to be NHS ‘lifers’, too. We used to go out for coffee and have a good old gripe.”
Val has made lifelong friends in the NHS over the years and said it was ‘fun to come to work’.
She gets invited to lunch by consultants and is no longer worried about visiting the mortuary as the manager is a friend.
“I suppose not many people visit a mortuary for a cheer-up chat but it works – after coming through the Covid-19 pandemic it makes you grateful for what you have.
“Covid was the pits, the worst point of my career.”
Val, who lives in Darfield, now works as laboratory medicine medical secretary and as a clerical supervisor.
A mum-of-two and grandma to two boys, the 68-year-old still has a lot to give work-wise.
Proudly wearing her NHS 50 years’ service badge, she said: “I’m quite proud of myself, really.
“I think there must be a magnet that keeps me rooted to the hospital.
“Giving service to the public is my motivation to keep coming to work, and I get a lot of job satisfaction out of completing my projects.
“I feel privileged and honoured to have done my job – I have loved my career in pathology.”