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Marion honoured for her decades of NHS service to Suffolk families

The NHS workforce is always rightly celebrated as its greatest asset, and often staff give a lifetime of care and compassion to patients and their families.

Our Trust marks long service in the NHS from 20 to 50 years. A recent recipient of a 45-year long-service badge was nursery nurse Marion Rolph. A member of the team on the West Suffolk Hospital’s neonatal unit, she has been caring for mothers and babies locally for 48 years.

Determined to reach her 50 years’ service, Marion said: “This is the best job ever and the West Suffolk is lovely to work for. We have a small unit here and it’s a great team – I genuinely enjoy going to work.”

Marion specialises in supporting mothers whose babies are being cared for in the neonatal unit to breastfeed. “I am passing on the skills I learned from a very experienced nurse, and many years working with so many mothers. People have usually made the decision to breastfeed before they have their baby, and we help, support and encourage them. We also help and support with bottle-feeding.

“Our babies can be premature or have some other issue that means they need extra care. We make sure even tiny babies have skin to skin contact with their mothers, and if they need to be tube-fed at first, we express their mothers’ milk right from the word go, to get them used to the taste, smell and feel of their mother.”

After nursery nurse training Marion worked in children’s homes until 1974, when she joined the maternity service at what was then Newmarket General Hospital, moving to the West Suffolk Hospital neonatal unit 18 years later. Marion acknowledged that during her career in the NHS she has seen the silver, golden, diamond and now platinum jubilees.

Having looked after so many babies in the town, Marion is well-known in Newmarket where she lives with her husband Ian, and they have a daughter and two sons, and two grandchildren. “People often come up to me and say they remember me from when they had their baby,” she said.

Looking back over her long career, Marion can see many changes. “The fathers were not allowed to be there at the birth and could only look at their newborns through a window. The older midwives were horrified when they were allowed in the labour suite. It was much more regimented when I began, but now it is quite rightly much more mother- and baby-led.

“For a first baby you stayed in hospital for ten days and were shown how to bath a baby and so on as well as feeding – the mothers liked it, they used to say it was a bit like school! Of course, there were only towelling nappies, and the babies were all put into green cotton tops.”

Brought up in Exeter, Marion was eight years-old when she helped out at a children’s home party and loved it so much she asked if she could help after school. When she left school, aged 16 in 1968, it was to start her training as a nursery nurse.

Interim chief executive Craig Black said: “48 years is an astonishing length of time to serve the community but what is truly exceptional is the high regard Marion is held in from patients, families and colleagues alike. To deliver such care over such a time period is awe inspiring!”

Karen Ranson, manager of the neonatal unit, said: “Marion has been part of the neonatal team for many years, and has supported hundreds of families during this time in lots of ways. Her patience and skill at supporting mothers breastfeeding makes her stand out.

“Marion’s love of her job is clear for all to see, as is the fondness of parents for her. I can only liken her to a warm blanket, and I think that’s how she makes parents feel… warm, safe and secure. Marion is a great asset to our babies, their families and to the neonatal unit.”

Karen Ranson has also recently received her 40-year long service badge, having started working in the NHS on 23 May 1982.

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Marion Rolph (left) and Karen Ranson (right)

Marion Rolph (left) and Karen Ranson (right)