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Recruitment, work patterns and payments

When the Hospital received its first admissions in 1845, 12 nurses were appointed at £20-£25 a year and 12 at £10-£14 a year.  They worked a 96 hour week and lived at the end of the wards, so as to be on hand, if needed.

An advertisement was put in the local paper in 1870 for 2 night nurses, whose wages would start at £15 a year and after 2 years service would rise by £1 a year up to £20.

Moving on to the early 1900s especially at the times of World Wars I and II, recruitment was depleted, as male nurses were enlisted into the various Forces.  With the lack of staff, the workload was even harder.  At the beginning of World War II the Hospital was chosen to be an Emergency Hospital whereby Army Doctors and Queen's nurses were appointed along with equipment and an Operating Theatre.

The Hospital was bombed in 1942 which led to many casualites and fatalities of patients and staff.  Thus making staffing levels even lower and harder to recruit.

Recruitment became difficult due to a lack of people wanting to work in the Mental Health sector. The 1960s saw the start of nurses being recruited from abroad, especially Ireland but there were also Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, French, and other nations.  

The hours became fewer with full-time being 37½ hours a week.  Part-time hours varied. The usual hours were 7am - 7pm for day staff and night nurses were 7pm - 7am. They generally worked '3 on, 3 off', i.e. some staff worked for three days, followed by a break of three days. These hours stayed virtually the same until the Hospital closed in 1987.  

Nurses had to be there at a quarter to seven in the morning for a "handover" from the night staff and finished at a quarter past seven at night vice versa for night staff.

Many patients were incontinent, so regular bathroom trips were needed to prevent sores and for the patient's dignity too.  Although the patient may have been very confused, it was still hugely important for them to retain their self-respect.  

There was generally a routine to the daily workload of a ward, starting as soon as their shift began with getting the patients up, washed and dressed ready for breakfast.  Those who went out to work, did so and some went off to Occupational Therapy where they were encouraged to make items to sell on to staff and members of the public.  Others were set to their tasks.  After breakfast there were patients who were confined to their beds to look after - bed bath, teeth cleaned, hair brushed, basic nursing care was paramount to the well-being of the patient.

During the course of the day, there were various tasks to complete.  Patients needed Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and other treatments.  There was also the usual toileting, bathing, feeding and then eventually putting them to bed.

The food was excellent.  Three cooked, nutritious meals a day as well as morning coffee/tea and a biscuit/cake and evening supper of cocoa and a biscuit/cake. The Nurses were very keen to ensure that the patients who had difficulty feeding themselves, had help so that the patient was getting the nourishment and fluids needed. The nurses worked extremely hard from the time they started until their shift was over.

The payscale was implemented so that staff got paid according to their rank or speciality, ranging from the Nursing Assistant to State Enrolled Nurses (SEN), to Registered Mental Nurse (RMN), to Sisters/Charge Nurses, and finally the Matrons/Charge Nurses.

Weekends were paid at higher rates, as well as Bank Holidays.  The Bank Holidays also meant a lieu day for staff that worked it - a day off could be taken at a later date without losing pay and in addition to their allocated days off.