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Plaque unveiled for nurse who 'epitomised what NHS stands for'

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The “dedication and kindness” of a former nurse has been commemorated by the unveiling of a plaque and a specially named hospital suite.

Colleagues, past and present, came to remember the late Catherine “Cath” Whelan at the women’s health unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI).

“Cath epitomised what the NHS stands for, compassion, kindness and caring”

Sue Calvert

The plaque was unveiled at the hospital last Friday, the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust told Nursing Times. A colposcopy suite was also named in the nurse’s memory.

The specialist nurse, who was the trust’s first nurse colposcopist, died in January 2017 aged 62, after becoming ill with a neuroendocrine tumour (NET), a little over a year after retiring.

Ms Wheelan began her nurse training at Charing Cross Hospital, London, in the late 1970s before joining the trust in 1979. The nurse worked at both BRI and St Luke’s Hospital.

As the plaque was unveiled, consultant gynaecologist Sue Calvert paid tribute to Ms Wheelan and said: “She was quite simply a lovely person, a brilliant and dedicated nurse colposcopist, who had such a lovely manner with patients.

“We would get such positive feedback from patients who would mention Cath by name because she made them feel so reassured in what might otherwise have been an anxious situation,” she said.

“I had the pleasure of working with her for many years,” she said. “We will always remember her, and this plaque is a fitting tribute because it feels as though she is still part of our team.

“I think she would have been very proud – but also a little embarrassed”

Mick Wheelan

She added: “Cath epitomised what the NHS stands for, compassion, kindness and caring.”

Other colleagues also shared fond memories of their former colleague. Among them was Maureen Jones who said: “Cath would always make me laugh. She was such good fun. She was also very brave when her illness was diagnosed. You never heard her complaining.”

Ms Wheelan’s family, including her husband, Mick, son and daughter, Michael and Lisa, and grandchildren, Niamh, nine, and Emilia, five, attended the unveiling.

Her husband said: “We were all very touched when we heard of the plan to unveil a plaque in her memory.

“I think she would have been very proud – but also a little embarrassed,” he said. “She would have said ‘you don’t need to make all this fuss about me.’”

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cath Whelan plaque

Bradford’s first nurse colposcopist, Cath Wheelan, on her retirement in 2015 (5th from left)

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