Long serving South Petherton Hospital nurse recognised in national NHS awards ceremony

Date: 10 July 2019

If you have ever visited South Petherton Community Hospital there’s a good chance you’ll have heard of Mary Robertson.

Mary joined the old community hospital as ward sister and, fast forward 44 years, she still has very strong ties to the hospital. Not only does she has a ward named after her, but she even lives in a bungalow alongside the hospital grounds.

And now local MP Marcus Fysh has recognised the outstanding achievement of Mary and nominated her for a Lifetime Achievement award in the national parliamentary awards to celebrate the NHS’ birthday on 5 July. Mary reached the final at a ceremony in London.

It was the idea of current South Petherton Hospital League of Friends chair Paull Robathan, who wrote to Mr Fysh to let him know all about Mary’s story.

It all began in 1975 when Mary started as a ward sister and just two years later she was appointed matron. In 1988 she became overall hospital manager, before retiring due to ill health in 1993.

But that didn’t stop Mary as her passion for the hospital saw her join the League of Friends, of which she enjoyed a 12 year stint as chair person.

As part of her role at the League of Friends, Mary led large fundraising programmes with the help of the whole committee.

Mary was instrumental in the development of the new South Petherton Community Hospital, which opened in 2011 to replace the ageing building which had originally been built in 1938 as an isolation hospital.

Now, the new hospital is thriving and provides many outpatients services and a 24-bedded ward – aptly called The Mary Robertson Ward – which has 20 dedicated stroke rehabilitation beds and four beds for patients who are medically fit for discharge from hospital, such as those waiting for a transfer to a nursing or residential home or a care package at home. The hospital also makes provision to admit and care for patients at the end of life within these four beds where possible.

Mary continues to be an inspiration to staff at the hospital and further afield and is much loved in the community. She has even been an inpatient in the Mary Robertson Ward and remarked on the excellent care she received.

Reflecting on her time at the hospital, Mary said: “As matron I had a lovely career with a lot of involvement with the patients and the staff, which developed a great team atmosphere. Having a great team around you is the best way to work. I never woke up and thought I don’t want to go to work today.

“As chair of the League of Friends I helped to make a difference by championing and achieving the building of the new hospital in South Petherton.

“This huge task was completed with the support of many local people and it took a lot of time and effort, which was easy to give as I am so passionate about this wonderful hospital, which I think is a centre for stroke excellence in Somerset.”

Mary’s dedication to the staff at South Petherton Hospital saw the League of Friends decide to fund the Mary Robertson training bursary.

“One of the things that has made me so proud was when the League of Friends began a yearly bursary for staff training,” she said. “I was surprised but greatly pleased that they named the bursary after me and it is having a huge impact in providing our hospital staff with the best possible training.”

Marcus Fysh, MP for Yeovil, said:

“'I am delighted to nominate Mary for this award. She so deserves it, having been an inspiration to so many with her leadership in compassionate service to others and her community.

“It is wonderful that her bursary will continue to help and inspire people wishing to follow that lead, and it is right that she be recognised for her outstanding contribution. Thank you Mary.”

Heather Ancill, current matron at South Petherton Hospital, said: “I am delighted that Mary was nominated for this award. She is an amazing lady and I have spent many hours with her since starting work at the hospital.

“Mary holds fast to her principles – know your patients and your staff and provide the best hands on care for patients.

“Although Mary didn’t win the national award, she’s still a winner in ours eyes,”

“Mary and her long-time friend Dorothy Hudson (who sadly died on Mary Robertson ward in July 2016) are extremely supportive of the hospital, its patients and staff, providing all sorts of comforts and additions for patients including an electric keyboard, nativity scene, handwritten Christmas cards for patients, tea service for the sanctuary, an aerial photo of the old hospital, and an umbrella stand for the front entrance. They also spent many hours fundraising for the League of Friends with sales of Christmas cards, handmade calendars and fridge magnets.”

Hayley Peters, chief nurse at Somerset Partnership and Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trusts, said she was delighted that Mary had been recognised in this way.

“Mary’s commitment to nursing and the NHS is outstanding and I’m thrilled that she was nominated for this award.

“Mary exemplifies not only the very best of the NHS, but also the invaluable service of our dedicated and passionate volunteers who work across the NHS hospitals and units in Somerset.”

Volunteers play an important role for people who use the NHS in Somerset, their families and carers by providing support to our healthcare professionals. 

Somerset Partnership recognises the value a volunteer brings to the NHS, and it supports and encourages individuals who have chosen to give their time and energy freely to benefit the quality of services, and contribute to enhancing the experience of patients and service users.

For more information about volunteering, go to: http://www.sompar.nhs.uk/working-for-us/careers/volunteers/