HEALTHY LIVING: Thirty-bed wards heated with coal fires

Helen Carroll with some of her memorabilia from when she met the Quenn at a garden party at Buckingham Palace
Helen Carroll with some of her memorabilia from when she met the Quenn at a garden party at Buckingham Palace
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Helen Carroll, aged 87, started work at the old Royal Hospital on West Street in 1952. She was an almoner - a social worker providing care for patients on the wards.

“I started at the Royal Hospital in 1952, having previously worked in Birmingham and Newcastle.

“I was an almoner at the hospital, which is what social workers were called then.

“At that time, we were still dealing with the formation of the NHS.

“Things had not really settled down yet - we were still working it out.

“But it was a good time. Everyone was co-operative, everyone wanted it to work.

“The wards were very different. They were big, 30-bed wards, heated with coal fires.

“From the point of view of the patient it was not that comfortable.

“But there was always a lovely atmosphere, despite the facilities not being that good.

“Everything was less technical than it is now.

“For me the worst change over the years has been all the paperwork. It takes people’s time up.

“If you go in as a patient you are asked your address four or five times. You begin to wonder who you are!

“I think it’s not as good as it was. Everyone has so much writing to do now - they don’t have that much time talking to patients.

“That was always my job, talking to patients. We helped patients with any problems arising from their illnesses.

“We helped them with housing issues, things like that.

“I remember I was invited to see the Queen Mother lay the foundation stone for the Hallamshire in 1958.

“It was a Saturday morning - May 17 - and we were asked to be there for 10.30am.

“There was already an outpatient service running there, and we were all crowded into the outpatient hall.

“She made a lovely speech and we were all thrilled to be there.

“I enjoyed my years at Sheffield’s hospitals very much.”