End of an era as Horley nurse retires after 48 years

Dolly Gilbert
Dolly Gilbert

Contributed by Helen Gilbert.

A popular diabetes specialist nurse has hung up her uniform for the last time after serving 48 years with the NHS.

Dolly Gilbert, 68, from Horley, began working as a nurse at the age of 20 when her wages were just £36 a month.

The medical worker, who is married to former supermarket department manager Barrie, with whom she shares two grown-up daughters, retired on Thursday January 31.

“I’ll miss my colleagues and patients very much,” she said. “It’s the end of an era.”

Dolly, who originally hails from Guyana in South America, arrived in the UK on Christmas Eve in 1970. She rejected a student nurse placement in Brooklyn, New York in favour of Dorking Hospital, and within 18 months had qualified as a state enrolled nurse before quickly rising through the ranks to Registered General Nurse and Registered Nurse Child Brand grades.

The keen table tennis player, who represents Crawley-based club the Foresters, met her husband in 1972 before giving birth to her first daughter in 1975.

“Back then there wasn’t very much maternity leave,” Dolly recalled. “I went back to work when my first child was six weeks old, and three months after my second daughter was born. I changed my shifts from days to nights so that I could look after them.”

During the 1990s, Dolly worked as a sister on the children’s ward at Crawley Hospital before specialising in paediatric and adolescent diabetes 19 years ago. In 2016 her diabetes team was a finalist in the BMJ Awards, which recognise the inspirational work done by doctors and their teams in the NHS and private practice.

“Dolly always went above and beyond to make a difference, especially showing empathy and compassion to the children and young people she cared for at the hospital,”

Jane Dickson, chief nurse at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “She was a valuable and inspirational member of staff, who will be greatly missed by the teams she worked with. We would like to thank Dolly for her commitment to care and wish her all the best in her retirement.”

Dolly, who has volunteered at her local Oxfam shop for the past 30 years, and will now also assist charity Grocery Aid in her spare time, added: “I’ve always enjoyed helping people and have met some lovely families over the years.

“I’m so touched by all the thank you letters and the kind messages I’ve received. Some patients have said they don’t want me to leave but I feel like it’s finally time for me to go.

“I’ll really miss everyone but I’m looking forward to travelling a lot more, playing more table tennis and bowls and spending more time in the garden.”