We are extremely busy in our emergency department so please use our services wisely.  In emergency and life-threatening cases continue to come forward as normal or call 999. 

However, if you are unsure about where to go, please call NHS 111 before coming to our emergency department who can best advise you on your next step.

News Centre


Golden anniversary of service for nurse Sonia

A nurse who began her career at the West Suffolk Hospital (WSH) 50 years ago is still working for the Trust that runs the hospital – West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) – and has recently taken up a role in a team supporting patients to be cared for at home. 

Sonia Denny, district nursing sister, started as a nursing cadet at 17, living in Batt House in Hospital Road in September 1972. More than 50 years later, she has received a special award from WSFT chief nurse Sue Wilkinson, in a surprise presentation as Sonia started an evening shift with her colleagues. On hand were her husband, Richard, and her daughter Beckie Rolfe, who is a heart failure nurse with the Trust’s community cardiac team.

Handing over a glass trophy to mark Sonia’s achievement Sue said: “I want to thank you for all the hours and years you have given to the NHS, and all the innovative ways of working you have championed to keep our patients safe. Well done, Sonia, and thank you so much for all that you have done and continue to do for our patients.”

Until recently, Sonia was working as a link nurse in a joint post with WSFT and Suffolk County Council, offering support to nursing and residential homes in west Suffolk. “The aim is to prevent hospital admission and improve patient care, by providing education and guidance to staff in the homes,” she said.

Based at the Disability Resource Centre she worked with the Home Care support team, tissue viability team, speech and language and physiotherapy services. She also partnered with district nursing sister, Jane Lewis, who focused on diabetes, while Sonia’s focus was wound care. Sonia said: “We ran training on various topics, but the ones I felt were very important, and the nurses and carers enjoyed, were palliative care, sepsis and wound care.

“This joined-up approach is a very different way of caring for people than the way we worked when I started in nursing,” said Sonia. After a number of years working with admission prevention services, Sonia is nursing part-time with the early intervention team (EIT) based at the WSH and offering intensive, integrated support to people in their own homes.

Born in Norfolk in 1955, Sonia moved to Suffolk as a schoolgirl. “From a young age I wanted to be a nurse or a special needs teacher. My mum and dad had seven children and the family didn’t have a lot. They gave me strength and supported me to stay on at school and through my training.” When Sonia qualified as a state registered nurse (SRN) in 1976, her father managed to find the £25 to buy her the silver belt buckle she still wears with great pride.

1976 was a big year for Sonia. As well as achieving her registration, she won the annual Joyce Cockram award – a staff recognition award named in honour of Bury’s first female doctor. Sonia also married Richard, whom, she said, has been a great support throughout her career and helped her believe in herself.

Sonia’s nursing career continued to develop in a variety of posts including in the community, and in intensive and cardiac care in Suffolk and Essex, until in 1989 she joined community services in west Suffolk. “For 12 happy years I worked with GP surgeries, including specialising in wound care and setting up courses on leg ulcer care. I realised when you are educated further, you can really make a difference and have always focused on constant personal development.”

Sonia said palliative care is her passion. “I set up the first blood transfusion at home with our community services, with a young man who wanted to spend his last days with his wife and children.” She was also involved in the then pioneering treatment of giving intravenous antibiotics at patients’ homes, setting up a pilot training project with the primary care trust. “I’m still working in rapid response and admission prevention – it’s what I have always wanted to do,” said Sonia.

Away from work, on holiday in India, Sonia and Richard were moved by the plight of street children and those suffering with leprosy. Through their own efforts and the Brighter Future International Charity, they have travelled all over India, offering support to orphanages and hospitals caring for HIV patients. They also sponsor a young man named Sanyassi.

In 2016, Sonia was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, which along with the pandemic, forced her to have a break from work on special leave. “It’s so hard to explain the fatigue you have with leukaemia, and my experience has helped me care for patients I see who often have fatigue.

“Thankfully, I am in remission, after four years of chemotherapy and regular tests. If you survive for two years, it may not come back, and all the signs are good. If it had not been for research and chemotherapy, I would not be here today. I have seen the development of medicine, research that has improved diagnosis, and treatments that improve quality of life,” she said.

Sue Wilkinson said: “Sonia is a true inspiration, her ability to flex and adapt to the ever-evolving changes across nursing over the years has been and is brilliant. She continues to be a real trailblazer. Providing care to patients in their own home is so very important and interventions such as administering intravenous antibiotics and blood transfusions are key enablers to do this.”

Sonia and Richard have two daughters, four grandchildren, and a dog. “I have had an amazing life and career in the NHS – I feel I could write a book about my patients and my life,” said Sonia. “After 50 years I look back and realise what a privilege it has been to be in people’s lives and be welcomed into their homes. I feel very humbled to care for people at the times in their lives when they show such courage and strength. I appreciate it every day.”

Back to Newsroom

Sonia with her daughter Beckie and her husband Richard

Sonia with her daughter Beckie and her husband Richard