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Margaret Goes to Downing Street!

A Trust governor has represented Manchester at a Downing Street reception. Margaret Parkes was invited to London because of her work on the city council’s Valuing Older People Board. The 83-year-old met both Prime Minster Gordon Brown and Pensions Minster James Purnell as part of the European Day for Older People. Margaret said: “I stood outside Downing Street years ago and wanted to go in and now I have. It is not often that an experience is infinitely better that you expect it to be. I was surprised at how much access we had apart from in the private quarters. We saw the dining room and the cabinet room where there are gifts received from heads of state from all around the world displayed in glass cases.” She added: “Gordon Brown and James Purnell were very nice and in light of the current financial crisis, I was amazed that they took the time to be there and speak to everyone.” The former nurse and midwife also reminisced about her training years in Cambridge from 1944 to 1948. The last year of World War II brought many British and German army casualties to the Cambridge Hospital and night duty was shared with armed guards. Margaret said: “The rationing and blackout seemed endless, but there were great things happening too – the discovery and introduction of penicillin, reserved at first for the war wounded. Then there were the peace celebrations and in 1948, the birth of the NHS. Overnight we moved from being a voluntary hospital to being funded by the taxpayers, momentous years indeed.” Throughout much of her working life, Margaret has devoted her time to caring for others whether it is in the NHS or in her position as the first student counsellor in the country. Her busy life is packed with activities such as sitting on the Valuing Older People Board or the Trust’s own Council of Governors, or music and swimming. She has two roles within the Board – the Small Grants Committee and Positive Images Campaign, which is a cause close to her heart. She said: “Research at Yale University showed how having a positive attitude towards age can add an extra eight years to your life. It is very important to get this message across to people and this can be quite difficult as lots of people think that when you get old you should take on the persona of an old person. Manchester has one of the lowest life expectancies in the country which is disastrous, but things are improving now.” Margaret hopes to use her invaluable experience in the NHS, both as an employee and a patient, in her role as a governor when we gain Foundation Trust status. Working groups are currently being established, and Margaret has expressed an interest in sitting on the Patient Experience group. She said: “Patient experience and staff satisfaction work together. If you spend time with the staff and find out how they are and their needs, this will reflect on patient experience. I was very impressed at the care shown to us from the word go in our governor induction which was very well organised.”