Trust staff attend Westminster Abbey service for 70th birthday of the NHS

Monday 9 July 2018

Bill Simmons and Louisa Batista with Ian Abbs at Westminster Abbey

Two outstanding members of staff attended a service at Westminster Abbey to mark 70 years of the NHS as special guests of our Deputy Chief Executive.

Louisa Batista, a chef based in the kitchens at St Thomas’ Hospital, and Bill Simmons, a porter who works at Guy’s Hospital, joined Ian Abbs, who is also the Trust’s Chief Medical Officer, at the celebratory event last Thursday.

Louisa, who has worked at the Trust for 48 years and remarkably has never taken a day off sick, was selected due to her consistent dedication to her job. She goes the extra mile in her role, especially when it comes to organising special diets for patients, no matter how complex the request may be.

Louisa, 66 from Vauxhall, said: “I love it here and enjoy every minute that I’m at work. I was surprised but very pleased to be chosen to go to Westminster Abbey. It was a wonderful service and such a great occasion so it was nice to be part of it.

“I joined the Trust straight from moving to England from Portugal and I couldn’t speak any English. I used to serve drinks on the wards and patients would teach me the words for tea and coffee – it took more than a year until I could speak the language properly.”

Bill, who starting working at Guy’s 19 years ago, is known to staff and patients as ‘Elvis’ because he sings to patients while taking them to where they need to go, putting them at ease during what can be an anxious time.

He said: “I only sing when I’m in the hospital and it makes patients more relaxed. They are often nervous if they are being taken to theatre, for example, and singing calms them down – they often say thank you afterwards. I mainly sing Elvis songs – my favourite is That’s All Right, Mama – and sometimes I sing Dean Martin too.”

Bill, 54 from Rotherhithe, was born at Guy’s and met his late wife while working at the hospital. He added: “Guy’s is a special place to me. There are not many hospital porters who say I was born here and I work here.

“It was unexpected to be chosen to go to Westminster Abbey. When my manager wanted to speak to me to tell me I thought I had done something wrong! When she said I’d been chosen to attend the service on behalf of the Trust I was shocked. It was a lovely day.

“It was also nice to hear that Ian Abbs once worked as a hospital porter himself. He said normally patients say more to a porter than to a doctor and he’s right. I usually start the conversation by asking patients if they live locally and I always get a response. I try to be approachable and friendly and I really enjoy the job.”

Ian said: “It was a pleasure to take Louisa and Bill to the special service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS. We worked out that we have been at the Trust for more than 100 years between the three of us, which is a great achievement.

“I was so impressed to hear how dedicated Louisa and Bill both are to their roles at Guy’s and St Thomas’. It was wonderful to show the Trust’s appreciation for their hard work over so many years by giving them the opportunity to be part of the 70th birthday celebrations.”

A wider group of around 20 staff also attended the service on Thursday.

To celebrate the 70th birthday a number of NHS Big 7Tea parties were held at Guy’s, St Thomas’ and our community sites, with Louisa and Bill cutting a special NHS70 birthday cake at St Thomas’. A special tea party was also held for children and families at Evelina London Children’s Hospital featuring a visit from Alice in Wonderland.

A new Trust film, We Care, was shown at the tea parties, celebrating what makes Guy’s and St Thomas’ so special.

Additionally, around 10 members of staff from Guy’s and St Thomas’ attended a party hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the 70th year of the NHS.

Last updated: March 2022

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