50-not-out for NHS stalwart Hilary

72-year-old Hilary Stanfield from West Bromwich is celebrating 50 years working in the NHS in the catering team at Heath Lane Hospital.

Hilary’s NHS journey began as a 22 year old, when she joined the hospital as a catering assistant – a role that she took over from her mum. Hilary said:

“My mother already worked at Heath Lane as a catering assistant, but when she was offered the role of cook, I was able to take on her assistant job.

“When I first started, Heath Lane was a chest and geriatric hospital. After that, the chest element was moved to the new Sandwell General Hospital, but the geriatrics remained.

“In those days, I used to head down to the wards each day to ask the patients what they wanted for their meals the next day. I always used to enjoy these visits – the patients would really bring a smile to my face – although it would often take me a while to do the rounds as I would be asked to pass a handbag or a pair of slippers – I didn’t mind though – I was always happy to help the patients.”

The hospital is now run by Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and cares for people with learning disabilities and mental health illness  – and although she doesn’t have as much contact with patients as she used to, Hilary still enjoys being able to make a difference. She added:

“I don’t have the day to day interaction with patients that I did in the years gone by, but I still love coming to work every day.

“It’s is a joy to work in the NHS and I take great pride in providing meals for both the patients and the staff.

“When I started, everything was done with pen and paper – I’ve struggled a little bit with all these computer systems, but I am getting there and can definitely see the benefit.”

Hilary says this year has been particularly challenging with the Covid-19 Pandemic, but the spirit between the staff at the hospital as always remained high.

“It’s definitely been hard work over the last six months, but we have adapted extremely well to the changes that have been put in place and I am so proud that we have been able to continue to provide patients and staff with meals they enjoy.”

Hilary is an incredibly valued member of the Trust and highly thought of by her team – in fact – two years ago, the café at Heath Lane Hospital was renamed ‘Hilary’s’ in honour of her incredible service. Chief Executive, Mark Axcell added:

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to congratulate Hilary on her incredible service.

“Everyone speaks so highly of her and I am delighted that she continues to enjoy working here at Black Country Healthcare.”


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