A woman dubbed the “stalwart of St Andrew’s” is celebrating her 42nd year working at the mental health hospital in Northampton.
Lesley Deacon, who works in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) as a healthcare assistant (HCA), started working at St Andrew's in 1980 at the age of 17.
She picked up her long service award for 40 years this year as she could not do so two years ago as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lesley said: “Back then HCAs were known as nursing assistants because that was your job, you assisted the nurses.
“At the time, I decided I wanted a job that meant I could help someone. I was fortunate enough to have had a good life, with wonderful parents and grandparents and I wanted to give something back.”
Lesley began her career working with dementia patients, where she recalls forming a close bond with an older gentleman called Patrick.
She said: “He could be violent. So many of the staff at the time were a bit cautious of him.
"I remember I was changing him one day and, out of nowhere, he hit me on the head. I looked at him and said ‘why did you do that? I’m trying to help you’. He held my gaze and then rubbed my head.
“From that day onwards, he was like my shadow. We had a close bond and - when he eventually died - I was pretty heartbroken.
"But his family told me how much they had appreciated the care I had given him and, when you hear things like that, that’s what makes the job worthwhile.”
Lesley moved to CAHMNS - known as adolescent services at the time - around two and a half years into her employment at St Andrew's. That is where she has worked ever since.
The healthcare assistant says her "claim to fame" in 1989 was becoming the first B Grade HCA at St Andrew's, which was the introduction to grading within the organisation.
When Lesley was asked why she stayed at St Andrew’s for so long, she said: “It’s a great place to work with really dedicated, warm and friendly people. Also, I get a lot of out this job.
“I feel if I can help just one person leave the hospital and go on to live a happy and fulfilling life, then I’ve done my job and that makes me feel good.
"I have always wanted to make a difference and I think I do here. I genuinely think if you love and enjoy your job then you will have complete work satisfaction.”
Head of Nursing for CAMHS, Dale Goodacre, said: "Lesley’s commitment to her work, her patients and the charity is admirable and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her commitment. We’ve dubbed her the 'stalwart of St Andrew’s.'
“Forty years with one organisation is no mean feat and, if we were to compare her time with us in marriage terms, that it seems quite fitting to congratulate her on ruby anniversary with us. Sadly, we couldn’t stretch to a ruby ring, but I hope she realises how much we appreciate her.”
St Andrew’s Healthcare provides specialist mental healthcare for patients with complex, challenging mental health needs in the UK.