The reunion: ‘If I could do it all again, I would in a heartbeat’

For those working in the NHS, the organisation is often seen as a family, with lifelong friendships developing in a fast-paced environment dedicated to supporting people at what is sometimes their most difficult time. 

This was never truer than for a group of friends who reunited at Blackpool Victoria Hospital recently, four decades after qualifying as nurses. 

On the year of the 75th birthday of the NHS, the 14-strong group of friends – one of whom had travelled 10,000 miles from Australia – got together at the hospital to reflect on just how much the NHS has changed. 

Among the friends was Jo Lickiss, the former Divisional Director of Nursing for Surgery, Anaesthetics, Critical Care and Theatres. 

Jo worked for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals since she started her training at the organisation’s School of Nursing (now the Trust’s Education Centre) on 3 January 1983. During the following years she worked in a number of roles within the surgery and outpatients teams, including as a staff nurse in ENT (ear, nose and throat) and Ophthalmics before becoming a ward manager in 1997. 

Later on she became Nurse Consultant for Infection Prevention in 2007, and Divisional Director of Nursing in 2017 until her retirement from nursing in 2022. 

During her time, Jo reports that among the biggest changes she saw was the expansion of the hospital itself, but one thing has remained constant – the commitment by colleagues to provide healthcare with care and compassion. 

Jo added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the NHS, it has been very rewarding and the people I have met throughout my career have shaped me as a nurse. There have been hundreds of highlights and stories, too many to recall, however what I can say is that I am very proud to be a nurse and if I could do it all again, I would in a heartbeat.” 

Also attending the reunion was Jackie Riedel, who worked the hospital until 2004 in various staff nurse and research roles within cardiac and medical teams. She even met her husband, who worked with the ambulance service, while working on Ward 21 in 1987 and gave birth to two children in the Women’s Unit. 

Jackie said: “I’ve met many wonderful colleagues over the years and seen the hospital develop and emerge into a modern, very busy place. Even though many of us moved out of Blackpool, my path crossed with various individuals and I now regularly use the Rheumatology outpatient service and am grateful for their support.” 

Meanwhile, Richard Penswick described how “time seemed to melt away” as the group met to reminisce and a tour of the hospital showed that while much had changed, it still felt familiar. 

Richard started his career as a junior staff nurse, progressing to ward manager and said: “I really enjoyed my time as a student being able to experience many aspects of nursing whilst gaining the hands-on skills and theoretical knowledge needed.  At the end of my training I gained the student of the year gold medal, the first male nurse to do so, I still have the medal and newspaper cuttings to prove it.” 

Former colleague Claire Brearley said that the hospital will “always hold precious memories” for her and was so excited to be interviewed for a training place. She explained: “Those three years were filled with a mixture of taught sessions and hands-on training on what was expected of you and as a nurse to be: kind, caring, knowledgeable, compassionate and professional at all times in care delivery. You wore your uniform with pride! 

“Our group  worked hard and we made long lasting friendships. Once qualified, I was successful in securing a staff nurse post within the cardiothoracic team. I loved my job and all the challenges it brought with it and have built my career in various successful nursing posts from the training foundation I was taught at BVH.” 


… now share your NHS75 story 

We’re counting down the 75 days to the 75th anniversary of the founding of the NHS on 5 July – and Trust colleagues, patients and the local community can all take part.  

We also want to hear what you love about the NHS as well as your stories and memories – and thank you to everyone who has been in touch so far.  

  • How has the NHS changed you or your family’s life for the better?  
  • Do you have pictures of times past at our hospitals and sites you’d like to share?  
  • Did you have family or friends who were with the NHS at its start in 1948?  
  • What inspired you to work in the NHS?  
  • Tell us if you are just one of many generations to work in the NHS  

Share your ideas and memories by visiting the My Story section on our NHS75 web pages.  


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