Britain’s oldest nurse still going strong after 60-year career in Wigan hospitals and schools

Modest Norma described herself as ‘a school nurse who just does her job.’
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A woman thought to be Britain’s oldest working nurse says she has no plans to retire and still puts in five shifts a week - at the grand age of 80.

Norma Newcombe has been a nurse for 60 years, after she started her career as a cadet at a hospital for babies in August 1958.

She has worked with Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for 40 years and has worked as a full-time school nurse since 1973.

Sharon Swift (Community Public Health Specialist Practitioner at Hindley Clinic), Norma Newcombe and Amanda Cheeseman (Deputy Chief Nurse at Wrightington Wigan & Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust)Sharon Swift (Community Public Health Specialist Practitioner at Hindley Clinic), Norma Newcombe and Amanda Cheeseman (Deputy Chief Nurse at Wrightington Wigan & Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust)
Sharon Swift (Community Public Health Specialist Practitioner at Hindley Clinic), Norma Newcombe and Amanda Cheeseman (Deputy Chief Nurse at Wrightington Wigan & Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust)

Apart from taking an eight-year break from her career to have her two children in 1965, she has worked as a nurse for over 60 years.

Modest Norma described herself as ‘a school nurse who just does her job.’

She said: “I’m proud to be where I am and I’m very passionate about the local area and everything related with Hindley and school nursing.

“We have brilliant team leaders and I work with a brilliant team of school nurses and health visitors and I’m just happy as I am and where I am.”

During the pandemic, Norma had to work from home due to having a weakened immune system.

Norma said: ““I like people not machines, I can still write quicker than I can type.

“Obviously things have to progress but there is not the same personal contact.

“When I first started school nursing, I could name you every child in my primary schools but I can’t now.

“I’ve had various illnesses over the past 10 years including being diagnosed with leukaemia.

“So when Covid hit I worked from home for a long time.

“I couldn’t get out in the community and some of the work got took off me because I couldn’t do it justice.”

Norma Newcombe is thought to be Britain’s oldest working nurse Credit: Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching HospitalsNorma Newcombe is thought to be Britain’s oldest working nurse Credit: Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals
Norma Newcombe is thought to be Britain’s oldest working nurse Credit: Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals

Despite hitting the milestone, Norma from Wigan, has no plans to slow down.

She said: “A lot of these schools kept ringing me up while I was working from home as they would only deal with me.

“One of them invited me to a barbecue before school finished and then took me out for lunch the week before my birthday.

“At this moment in time, I’m having a few mobility issues so I want to get them sorted first.

“I do a lot of long-haul holidays as my sister lives in Australia and we usually meet up halfway, so I want to be able to enjoy it.

“I’ll probably do school nursing until I die.”

Norma’s colleagues surprised her with a party at her workplace, where she was gifted flowers and jewellery.

Rabina Tindale, chief nurse at WWL said: “We are immensely proud to have Norma as part of the WWL team and access to her significant experience and wisdom, we hope she had an amazing day celebrating her birthday with her colleagues. “Norma’s commitment to her profession over so many years is astonishing, and we wish her all the best as she continues to care for the school-age population in the Hindley area.”

Sharon Swift, community public health specialist practitioner at Hindley Clinic spoke with pride about Norma’s relationships with the families in the area. Sharon said: “All the children and their families know Norma as she has been the school nurse for at least three generations. “The schools have a great respect for Norma and her experience, this assists her in her important role of health promotion and the safeguarding of children. “Norma is always happy and chatty in the team and has completed some great work with families within the 0-19 team”.

Zoe Corday-Taylor, a school nurse at Hindley Town Hall, said she has been ‘lucky’ to have worked with Norma for the last 11 years.

Zoe said: “She holds a very special place in the hearts of the children and families that she has helped over the years. “She never forgets a face or name and is now caring for the grandchildren of the children that she used to look after. “Norma is a very special part of our school nursing family and is loved by all of the team for her heart of gold and her dedication to the school age population of Wigan.”

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