Lilian Faithfull Care celebrates 50th anniversary of its first nursing home

This week 50 years ago, Gloucestershire charity Lilian Faithfull Care opened its first nursing home, St Faith's in Cheltenham — half a decade on, it now runs six. Its long-serving staff members reflect on the history of caring and explain how it's changed in the time since.

By Kaleigh Pritchard  |  Published
Lilian Faithfull Care is reminiscing on 50 years of St Faith's, its first ever nursing home.

Gloucestershire charity Lilian Faithfull Care is celebrating 50 years of care at its first nursing home, St Faith's in Cheltenham.

To commemorate the golden anniversary, long-serving staff members share their memories and give an insight into the highly skilled career of caring in the present day.

Wendy Heeks has worked at St Faith's for more than 45 years and reminisces on the early days of the home: 'I started at 17-years-old, dementia wasn't spoken about, it was just explained as confused.' She said: 'We wore dresses, plain blue with white piping and white belts with white starched hats.'

'St Faith's had three floors, each with a five-bed and six-bed ward.' Today, the wards are long gone, with the home now featuring 58 en-suite rooms and end-of-life care suites, as well as the latest equipment and specialised dementia care. This wasn't always the case, as Wendy explains: 'I remember that we didn't even have a hoist — we had to use calico sheets to lift people. But the nurses and matrons did everything, even all the admin and wages.'

Though much has changed, the family ethos remains, with a clear focus on home comforts and creating a space for families to visit and stay at any time that is convenient for them.

Receptionist at St Faith's, Ellen Pockett, has been part of the team for over 30 years, with her mum also working as one of the home's first cleaners. She echoed: 'It’s always been very family orientated here.

'I remember Mrs Newell — the nurse matron — would ring my mum up and say 'could you come in and just make some beds?' and mum would pop by. Mum is now 90 and she still meets up for lunch with a few of the others who worked here.'

Nursing at St Faith's has continued to evolve since its inception, as home manager Teresa Weis explains: 'The residents we look after now have complex nursing needs that would have previously required hospital care.

'We have an incredibly upskilled team of twelve nurses and fifty carers and it is much better for the residents. Although it is a large nursing home, all the staff here are on first name terms.

'We look after people holistically. It’s looking after the whole person, not just their medical issues.'

In 2024, the St Faith's nursing team is actively training the next generation of nurses, paramedics and healthcare professionals — being the first nursing home in the county to offer the opportunity for carers to train and qualify as nursing associates, alongside working with the University of Gloucestershire to offer degree student placements in the home.

Director of care at Lilian Faithfull Care for nearly 30 years, Suzanne Booker, said: 'The biggest changes over the 50-year history is that the nursing care is now given in a one-to-one personalised way.

'All the developments have also made a big difference to resident’s privacy and dignity. There is a now strong focus on well-being for both our residents and staff.

'It has always been a family here and it is these family values which haven’t changed over St Faith’s 50 years of nursing care.'

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