A Short History of The UCH Nurses’ League

UCH Nurses League with Miss Dora Finch
Miss Dora Finch founder of The UCH Nurses League

Miss Dora Finch, Matron and founder of The League

The beginnings of the League

The UCH Nurses’ League was the brainchild of Miss Dora Finch, the Matron of UCH in the early 20th century. In 1909 Miss Finch sent for one of her staff, Miss O’Brien, and announced, ‘I think it is time we had a Nurses’ League, will you see about it?”

In a few short months ‘The University College Hospital Nurses’ League’ was formed. Officers and committee were appointed, finances were organised, and the Nurses’ League Magazine started.

Aims of the League

The aims of the U.C.H. Nurses’ League were:

  1. To form a bond of union between past and present Members of the Nursing Staff
  2. For mutual help and social intercourse
  3. To encourage the maintenance of a high ideal of work and conduct
  4. To endeavour to promote professional interests

In 1910, the U.C.H. Nurses’ League established a benevolent fund” for its members where they could offer assistance to each other. The fund was supported by the voluntary donations of the members or their friends. Grants were made as necessity arose to any of the U.C.H. nurses who were in need. An example of the help given was financial assistance towards a holiday when otherwise the nurse concerned would have been overcome by work.

The League was very anxious to maintain and develop the professional competence of its members. Lectures on miscellaneous subjects of professional and general interest were delivered at the hospital once a fortnight. The lectures for the year 1912 included:

  • “Venereal Disease, Syphilis and treatment with ‘606’ “
  • “Immunity – principles of treatment”.

The lectures were a great success. A series of articles on developments in nursing care in the magazine also had the aim of maintaining the professional competence of League. Much later these became the basis for the introduction of the Education Fund.

In the early 20th century, members of the Nurses’ League staffed U.C.H. almost entirely. The training school and hospital served as the ‘Alma Mater’ to which the successful nurse returned many times during her working life.

Miss Dora Finch founder of The UCH Nurses League
Sandbags being placed during 2nd World War
Nurses looking into unexploaded bomb crater

In 1949 a member from set 98 recalled being photographed when looking down an unexploded bomb crater with a fellow nurse.

The UCH Nurses’ League and the Two World Wars

Since 1909 U.C.H. Nurses’ League has published a magazine for its members, annually.  Copies of which have been kept, these provide a valuable insight into the changes in Nursing over the years. The magazine contains reports by the Secretary, Chair, Treasurer, and President.  Reports of the previous year’s study morning and AGM are included, plus interesting articles written by members.

The following passages are extracts from past magazines;

 On 25 August 1939 on instruction from the Ministry of Health preparations were made for war. All patients who were well enough were discharged home, whilst those too ill to be discharged were evacuated to places outside London. A casualty clearing station was established in the basement and ground floor of the Private Patients’ Wing (PPW), and 70,000 sandbags placed in position.

In September 1939, 19th century Ashridge House renamed Ashridge Park Hospital was taken over by nursing staff from U.C.H., Charing Cross and St. John’s.  One nurse has recalled that on arrival there her set had to sleep in the ballroom and on waking gazed up at the beautiful painted ceiling! Later this room became one of the wards. The first influx of patients was in May 1940 when 500 wounded military men arrived from Dunkirk.  The last were our returned prisoners of war mostly suffering from malnutrition. Throughout the war the Ashridge woodland provided deep cover for several army camps and the home guard.

In 2004 a commemorative event was held at Ashridge, Nurses who had been sent there in WW2 were invited to participate and share their memories. They recalled that whilst it was a safer environment, they really wanted to return to London as soon as possible since UCH remained open throughout the war.

A memory of D-day

D-Day 6 June 1944. Many League members in magazines since have recorded their memories of D-day. This is just one of the accounts;

‘I was in a coach directed to a secret destination, which turned out to be Chertsey. The wards were long huts and we were housed in the large houses in the grounds. For the first few days we had no patients and spent long days cleaning and tidying the already pristine beds and darning operation socks.

Our first patients arrived on June 7, the day after the landings. The soldiers were still in their muddy uniforms and arrived in the middle of the night from a convoy at Woking station. We were with staff from St Thomas’s and Charing Cross. The patients were so pleased to see white sheets and beds. Only the seriously injured were kept at Chertsey as the rest were moved within a couple of days to sector hospitals around the country.

The theatres were kept busy as we were dealing with chest wounds and amputations, Penicillin was used, and we had only just heard of this wonder drug. The yellow liquid was crude and very painful to inject every four hours. Lady Florey who was with her husband, Howard had worked with Alexander Fleming in the discovery of penicillin was at Chertsey supervising the treatment. Urine from patients on penicillin had to be collected and was sent to the laboratory. We also had German prisoners suffering from tetanus as unlike our service men, they had not been inoculated with TAB and the smell of formaldehyde with which they were treated pervaded our clothes and our food.

After this experience we returned to Gower Street to work for our finals. Mrs. Jackson was Matron and at that time, there were no hospital managers, so she was ably assisted by Sister Rutter who guided us all. There was still a shortage of linen and equipment, but the patients did not suffer and the tradition of UCH as a leading teaching hospital was upheld.’

In 1949 a member from set 98 recalled being photographed when looking down an unexploded bomb crater with a fellow nurse, both in uniform, near Maples. Later she said they were given a telling off by Matron for accepting the invitation to climb over the fencing and descend the ladders!

 

The UCH Nurses’ League and the Two World Wars

Since 1909 U.C.H. Nurses’ League has published a magazine for its members, annually.  Copies of which have been kept, these provide a valuable insight into the changes in Nursing over the years. The magazine contains reports by the Secretary, Chair, Treasurer, and President.  Reports of the previous year’s study morning and AGM are included, plus interesting articles written by members.

The following passages are extracts from past magazines;

 On 25 August 1939 on instruction from the Ministry of Health preparations were made for war. All patients who were well enough were discharged home, whilst those too ill to be discharged were evacuated to places outside London. A casualty clearing station was established in the basement and ground floor of the Private Patients’ Wing (PPW), and 70,000 sandbags placed in position.

Sandbags being placed during 2nd World War

In September 1939, 19th century Ashridge House renamed Ashridge Park Hospital was taken over by nursing staff from U.C.H., Charing Cross and St. John’s.  One nurse has recalled that on arrival there her set had to sleep in the ballroom and on waking gazed up at the beautiful painted ceiling! Later this room became one of the wards. The first influx of patients was in May 1940 when 500 wounded military men arrived from Dunkirk.  The last were our returned prisoners of war mostly suffering from malnutrition. Throughout the war the Ashridge woodland provided deep cover for several army camps and the home guard.

In 2004 a commemorative event was held at Ashridge, Nurses who had been sent there in WW2 were invited to participate and share their memories. They recalled that whilst it was a safer environment, they really wanted to return to London as soon as possible since UCH remained open throughout the war.

A memory of D-day

D-Day 6 June 1944. Many League members in magazines since have recorded their memories of D-day. This is just one of the accounts;

‘I was in a coach directed to a secret destination, which turned out to be Chertsey. The wards were long huts and we were housed in the large houses in the grounds. For the first few days we had no patients and spent long days cleaning and tidying the already pristine beds and darning operation socks.

Our first patients arrived on June 7, the day after the landings. The soldiers were still in their muddy uniforms and arrived in the middle of the night from a convoy at Woking station. We were with staff from St Thomas’s and Charing Cross. The patients were so pleased to see white sheets and beds. Only the seriously injured were kept at Chertsey as the rest were moved within a couple of days to sector hospitals around the country.

The theatres were kept busy as we were dealing with chest wounds and amputations, Penicillin was used, and we had only just heard of this wonder drug. The yellow liquid was crude and very painful to inject every four hours. Lady Florey who was with her husband, Howard had worked with Alexander Fleming in the discovery of penicillin was at Chertsey supervising the treatment. Urine from patients on penicillin had to be collected and was sent to the laboratory. We also had German prisoners suffering from tetanus as unlike our service men, they had not been inoculated with TAB and the smell of formaldehyde with which they were treated pervaded our clothes and our food.

After this experience we returned to Gower Street to work for our finals. Mrs. Jackson was Matron and at that time, there were no hospital managers, so she was ably assisted by Sister Rutter who guided us all. There was still a shortage of linen and equipment, but the patients did not suffer and the tradition of UCH as a leading teaching hospital was upheld.’

In 1949 a member from set 98 recalled being photographed when looking down an unexploded bomb crater with a fellow nurse, both in uniform, near Maples. Later she said they were given a telling off by Matron for accepting the invitation to climb over the fencing and descend the ladders!

 

Nurses looking into unexploaded bomb crater
Old photo of happy nurses outside hospital
Nurses in 1960s on UCH roof garden
UCH Nursing Sister giving the report to 2 nurses
UCH Nurses School
UCH retired nurses as reunion
UCH Nurses' League Centenary attended by HRH Princess Alexandra

UCH as a Nurse Training and Education Institution

Nurse training has been available at UCH since the beginning of the 20th century. A certificate of competence was issued to nurses who undertook 3 years of service. Much of the learning occurred ‘on the job’ and via doctors’ lectures. Formal training followed when U.C.H. PTS (Preliminary Training School) opened in March 1930.It was accommodated in The Rockefeller Nurses’ Home, which had been by the Rockefeller foundation.

The Block system of training

In 1936 the block system of training was introduced which was the first scheme of its kind in the UK. In 1968 the school moved to Minerva house as a combined training school with the School of Radiography. The Duchess of Kent performed the opening ceremony watched by various sets at the time.

The Modular Scheme of Training

In 1972 the Modular scheme of training commenced, again UCH was one of the first UK schools to move students onto this scheme. In 1986 a joint nursing curriculum allowed the amalgamation of the 2 Nursing Schools of UCH and The Middlesex Hospital. The Bloomsbury College of Nurse Education was formed. Later in the 1980’s this became The Bloomsbury & Islington College of Nursing &Midwifery.

Project 2000

1992 saw the introduction of Project 2000 nurse training which eventually led to the integration of nurse education into the University system at degree level and the subsequent closure of Minerva House.

Degree entry to nurse registration

Nurses continue to be educated in their clinical placements at UCLH with their academic studies at a number of different London Universities.

The legacy of Matron Dora Finch

The legacy of Matron Dora Finch has continued with current senior nurses. The Director of Nursing taking an interest in the league and attending the AGM. This is preceded by a study morning, which includes speakers talking about current nursing practice and changes at UCLH. There is also an annual, social lunch in the autumn. Both events are popular for set reunions. The ability to keep in touch not only with nursing trends but friends made during nurse training has always been an important function for the League.

The League’s Centenary

The League celebrated its centenary on 25th April 2009 with a very special day. It began with a thanksgiving service at St Pancras church in the presence of HRH Princess Alexandra followed by a reception at Royal National Hotel. There was much excited chatter from 550 UCH nurses sharing memories triggered by the displays of archival photos.

The UCH London Nurses’ Charity

During the next few years there were many discussions about how to maintain the League’s financial sustainability and its future continuance. The importance of remaining relevant to today’s nurses amidst changes in nurse education and funding was a big consideration. On 1st January 2016 The League became a charity and changed its name to The UCH London Nurses’ Charity. Thanks to the UCLH Trust the charity continues to have office space.

Today, the Charity has approximately 1080 associate members and membership is available for any registered nurse who has worked at UCLH for at least one year.

UCH as a Nurse Training and Education Institution

Nurse training has been available at UCH since the beginning of the 20th century. A certificate of competence was issued to nurses who undertook 3 years of service. Much of the learning occurred ‘on the job’ and via doctors’ lectures. Formal training followed when U.C.H. PTS (Preliminary Training School) opened in March 1930.It was accommodated in The Rockefeller Nurses’ Home, which had been by the Rockefeller foundation.

The Block system of training

In 1936 the block system of training was introduced which was the first scheme of its kind in the UK. In 1968 the school moved to Minerva house as a combined training school with the School of Radiography. The Duchess of Kent performed the opening ceremony watched by various sets at the time.

Duchess of Kent attends Minerva House opening ceremony

The Modular Scheme of Training

In 1972 the Modular scheme of training commenced, again UCH was one of the first UK schools to move students onto this scheme. In 1986 a joint nursing curriculum allowed the amalgamation of the 2 Nursing Schools of UCH and The Middlesex Hospital. The Bloomsbury College of Nurse Education was formed. Later in the 1980’s this became The Bloomsbury & Islington College of Nursing & Midwifery.

Nurses in 1960s on UCH roof garden

UCH Nursing Sister giving the report to 2 nurses

Project 2000

1992 saw the introduction of Project 2000 nurse training which eventually led to the integration of nurse education into the University system at degree level and the subsequent closure of Minerva House.

Degree entry to nurse registration

Nurses continue to be educated in their clinical placements at UCLH with their academic studies at a number of different London Universities.

UCH Nurses School

The legacy of Matron Dora Finch

The legacy of Matron Dora Finch has continued with current senior nurses. The Director of Nursing taking an interest in the league and attending the AGM. This is preceded by a study morning, which includes speakers talking about current nursing practice and changes at UCLH. There is also an annual, social lunch in the autumn. Both events are popular for set reunions. The ability to keep in touch not only with nursing trends but friends made during nurse training has always been an important function for the League.

The League’s Centenary

The League celebrated its centenary on 25th April 2009 with a very special day. It began with a thanksgiving service at St Pancras church in the presence of HRH Princess Alexandra followed by a reception at Royal National Hotel. There was much excited chatter from 550 UCH nurses sharing memories triggered by the displays of archival photos.

UCH Nurses' League Centenary attended by HRH Princess Alexandra

The UCH London Nurses’ Charity

During the next few years there were many discussions about how to maintain the League’s financial sustainability and its future continuance. The importance of remaining relevant to today’s nurses amidst changes in nurse education and funding was a big consideration. On 1st January 2016 The League became a charity and changed its name to The UCH London Nurses’ Charity. Thanks to the UCLH Trust the charity continues to have office space.

Today, the Charity has approximately 1080 associate members and membership is available for any registered nurse who has worked at UCLH for at least one year.

UCH Nurses' badges

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Autumn Lunch Cancelled

Saturday 10th October 2020
Grafton / Radisson Hotel, London

Sadly we have had to cancel the Autumn Lunch

Annual Study Morning & Charity Meeting Cancelled

24th April, 2021.
At the Grafton/Radisson Hotel, 130 Tottenham Court Road

Sadly we have had to cancel this event

Autumn Lunch

Saturday 16th October 2021
At the Grafton/Radisson Hotel, 130 Tottenham Court Road

Details available closer to the date

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