Paul, Chaplaincy Volunteer at St George’s Park

St George’s – an experience like none other!

Paul and Maureen“Why on earth did I accept this job offer?” This was the question I asked myself after three days of working in my new job at St George’s Hospital, Morpeth (the 1850 version). Since completing my three years of study at the Sunderland School of Pharmacy (1960-63) I had worked as a junior Pharmacist at the general hospitals in Newcastle (1963-66) and then as Deputy Chief Pharmacist at the South Shields General Hospitals (1966-74).

I had applied for the position of Chief Pharmacist at St George’s Hospital only half seriously after reading the most off-putting, but challenging, advert in the Pharmaceutical Journal of February 1974. A good number of NHS hospital pharmacists applied and six of us had been shortlisted. At the end of March, we turned up for interview at Northumberland Health Authority HQ, built on the huge campus of St George’s Hospital. After our tour of the very attractive grounds (including the football pitch, bowling-green and the working farm!) we explored the rather grim edifice of the Victorian hospital and its many outbuildings. The tour had to include the Pharmacy which was housed in a totally unsuitable building with the only desk jammed into the dispensary. I found out that (in my opinion) the department required at least twice the number of staff to operate the department that provided services for that hospital of 1,000 beds, let alone provide the service for the Northgate and St Mary’s hospitals, both with 600 beds!

So, after our interviews, after the six of us had waited together, “why on earth” did I say “Yes” when I was selected to be offered the job? I had prayed about this job interview and felt it would be right to accept the position if it was offered. Since 1st May 1974 which was my start date I have continued to know God’s guidance daily, for instance: when I was asked to provide services to all of the Northumberland Community Health Visitors, Nurses, Podiatrists and Dentists working from Health Centres and clinics; through the 10 years I had to wait for a new department (and more staff); when I started providing Public Health pharmaceutical services to Northumberland; through the time when I was offered, and eventually accepted, the job of District Pharmacist for the whole of Northumberland, even though I had not applied for it; when I became Trust Chief Pharmacist for the various NHS Trusts that have been responsible for providing mental health services to Northumberland and Tyneside.

I thank God for being allowed, also in 1974, to start a Monday evening session, which any patients or staff could attend, to discuss matters of faith. It was nearly thirty years before I retired from the Chief Pharmacist post to enable me to train for and volunteer as, the first Hospital Chaplain in Northumberland (February 2002).

I am now fully retired but volunteer for three hours a week at the Chapel of St George’s Park. I must conclude by emphasising how grateful I am to have been based at St George’s (Hospital and Park) all of these years and to be blessed so much through the many patients, staff and volunteers I have had the pleasure to get to know. A big thank you to everyone.