Gloucestershire Echo


Long-serving staff share their memories of St Faith’s nursing home in Cheltenham


Fifty years ago, St Faith’s in Cheltenham became the first nursing home for the Gloucester­shire charity Lilian Faithfull Care, and it has been changing and developing ever since.

To celebrate this golden anniversar­y, long-serving staff share their memories and todays nursing team give an insight into the highly skilled nurse-led care of 2024.


Carer Wendy Heeks has worked at St Faith’s for more than 45 years of its 50-year history as a nursing home, and remembers what is was like in the early days.

Reminiscin­g about her journey, Wendy said: “I started when I was seventeen years old, dementia was not spoken about, it was just explained as ‘confused’. There were three flours here and each had one five-bedded and one six-bedded ward.”

“The wards had a concertina door into a day room with a bay window. We didn’t even have a hoist, we had to use strips of calico sheets under people to lift them.” “There were two nurses and a matron, who was strict, but a really lovely woman called Evelyn Newell. They did everything, even all the admin and wages. We wore dresses, plain blue with white piping and white belts and white starched hats. Carers had so much responsibi­lity and you never went sick.” Today, the wards are long gone, the home now has 58 en-suite rooms and end of life care suites, the latest equipment and specialise­d dementia care.

What remains is the family ethos. There is a focus on home comforts and it is now somewhere families visit at anytime and stay.


Receptioni­st Ellen Pockett has worked at St Faith’s for 30 years and her family have been connected for much longer as her mum, Peggy, was one of the first cleaners at St Faith’s. Ellen said: “It’s always been very family orientated here. I remember Mrs Newell would ring mum up ‘could you come in and just make some beds?’ and mum would pop by.” “Mum is now 90 and she still meets up for lunch with a few of the others who worked here Shirley from laundry, Derek the handyman and Lou, one of the carers.” Ellen hasn’t always been on reception, she explained: “I came when my girls were very little and I actually did the hair here. The whole building has changed for the better over the time I’ve been here. It is a still family here, otherwise we wouldn’t have stayed!”


Home manager Teresa Weis qualified as a nurse more than 46 years ago. She said: “The nursing here has developed so much from when I first came to St Faith’s in 2001. The residents we look after now have complex nursing needs that would have previously required hospital care. We now have a lot of admissions straight from hospital, it has become rare we get anyone from home.”

“We have an incredibly upskilled team of twelve nurses and 50 carers and it is much better for the residents. Although it is a large nursing home, all the staff here are on first name terms.” “We have a fantastic relationsh­ip with the GPS at Overton Park Surgery and the NHS rapid response team. We also work closely with other healthcare profession­als such as social workers, speech therapists and CHC assessing nurses, it’s a multidisci­plinary team. “We look after people holistical­ly. It’s about looking after the whole person. We aren’t just looking at the medical issues that need attention, but looking at how it is affecting the whole person.”


The St Faith’s nursing team are active in training the next generation of nurses, paramedics and other healthcare profession­als. It offers the opportunit­y for carers to train and qualify as nursing associates, and for the past eight years it has been working in partnershi­p with the University of Gloucester­shire, supporting degree students on placements in the home. Pauline Okposi, St Faith’s clinical nurse lead has been part of these initiative­s from the start. She said: “We started our partnershi­p with the University supporting student nurses and it has been so successful that this has expanded now to include paramedics and physiother­apy students.” “When a lot of the students come in and we explain what we do in a nursing home, they are very surprised. The thing that shocks them the most is the fact that we are autonomous as the doctor isn’t in everyday unless we call them. The nursing students don’t believe it!” Pauline herself is working towards a Masters qualificat­ion in nursing studies and has found inspiratio­n from the colleagues and students, explaining: “We support in practice because we all learn from each other.” Pauline also teaches on the charity’s staff induction week and supports the student nurse associates programme, which enables carers to train to become nurses. She said: “The student nurse associate programme is another big developmen­t here. That’s been a really big help.” “Sarah, who started as a carer, was the first to do the course and she has now joined the nursing team. She is growing all the time and doing really well. Soon she will go for her top-up course and become a fully qualified nurse.” “We also have another carer who has started the course now. It is a good way for people getting into the nursing profession, perhaps who didn’t get the chance when they were young.”

St Faith’s first nurse associate, Sarah Ellis, explains: “It was hard as I hadn’t been in education for years but I learned a lot and I’m still learning every day.

“I like the atmosphere here. You get to know the people, the residents, and I like the personal side of it. I couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been offered as an apprentice­ship through the charity.”


Suzanne Booker, director of care at Lilian Faithfull Care, has been with the charity for nearly 30 years. Reflecting on how she has seen change at St Faith’s, she said: “I think one of the biggest changes over the 50 year history is that the nursing care is now given in a one-to-one personalis­ed way.”

“All the developmen­ts have also made a big difference to resident’s privacy and dignity. There is now a strong focus on well-being for both our residents and staff.”

“As a family, you are now welcomed into St Faith’s and you can be there 24 hours a day if you want to be. It has always been a family here and it is these family values which haven’t changed over St Faith’s 50 years of nursing care.” Find out more about St Faith’s home by visiting the website www.lilianfait­

St Faith’s is seen as a family by those who work and live there (Image: Lilian Faithfull Care)

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 ?? (Image: Lilian Faithfull Care) ?? Pauline and the St Faith’s university students
(Image: Lilian Faithfull Care) Pauline and the St Faith’s university students
 ?? (Image: Lilian Faithfull Care) ?? St Faith’s nursing home was opened on March 26, 1974
(Image: Lilian Faithfull Care) St Faith’s nursing home was opened on March 26, 1974
 ?? (Image: Lilian Faithfull Care) ?? St Faith’s is celebratin­g 50 years
(Image: Lilian Faithfull Care) St Faith’s is celebratin­g 50 years
 ?? ?? St Faith’s Wendy, Suzanne and Teresa (Image: Lilian Faithfull Care)
St Faith’s Wendy, Suzanne and Teresa (Image: Lilian Faithfull Care)

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