QA radiographer who's worked in every department to retire after 46 years in the NHS

Morag Baldwin is a huge credit to Queen Alexandra Hospital at Cosham, where she’s spent 44 years of her working life.

By Hollie Busby
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 12:31 pm

Tirelessly working to help her patients, the grandmother-of-two only stopped full-time work as an advanced practitioner radiographer two years ago and will retire next month on her 66th birthday.

From being there through the highs and the lows, listening to different patients’ stories every working day of her life, meeting Princess Anne and being recognised as part of an award-winning team – Morag wouldn’t have it any other way.

As a radiographer Morag’s role is varied. Operating scanning machines like X-Ray machines and CT scanners to interpret images to help make a diagnosis for a patient, the job can operate across all departments of a hospital.

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Morag Baldwin is finally retiring after 46 years with the NHS as a Radiographer and 44 years at QA in Portsmouth. Pictured: Morag Baldwin at QA Hospital on Friday 29th April 2022 Picture: Habibur Rahman

But when Morag was at school, radiography had never jumped out at her as an obvious career choice growing up in Scotland. It was all thanks to a school teacher who encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone.

‘I left school at 18 and went to train as a radiographer,’ Morag, from Cosham, explains.

‘It was a teacher at school who got me into it because I’d decided I wanted to just leave school and go to work.

Morag Baldwin with Princess Anne at the official opening of Fareham Community Hospital.

‘He said I ought to pick three careers and have a go at each of them and decide which one I wanted to do. If it hadn't had been for him, I would have never got into it.

‘The reason I did radiography in the first place was that it was a two-year training course and everything else was free. It wasn't, “this is what I've always wanted to do and all the rest of it”, ‘she says.

Forty-six years after first qualifying as a radiographer at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, it’s an emotional time for Morag.

She’s leaving behind much-loved staff members and the job she’s dedicated so much of her life to after making a decision to apply for a job in Portsmouth where she moved in 1978.

Members of the team in 1979 when the Royal Portsmouth Hospital closed and staff moved to QA,

From seeing to patients young and old, times spent working in every department of the hospital in one week, Morag has many lasting memories that she’ll cherish.

‘Every patient you meet is different and if you speak to them they've all got a story and they're all very interesting,’ she says.

‘I had a patient in her 80s and I sat and talked to her for about half an hour. She was a spy within the Houses of Parliament during the war because she could lip read and she could also speak German.

‘They employed her as a tea lady because nobody notices a tea lady. She could pick out the German speaking people.

‘Everybody’s got their story.

‘Radiography is a very varied career and it's quite an exciting because everything changes all the time.

‘Technology changes, you have to keep learning new things all the time. Although I've worked there for 44 years, I've been a radiographer for 46 years.

‘It's an ever-changing job.’

65-year-old Morag started her career in Portsmouth at the Royal Hospital in Commercial Road. Prior to that, she’d worked at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow for two years – which has since closed.

In that time, she’s witnessed technologies drastically change.

‘The major differences is QA is a huge hospital and you don't know everyone who works there so much.

‘Whereas when it first opened in 1979, it was much smaller and as a radiographer integrated within the other departments like in the emergency department it's not quite such a close working relationship.

‘You're part of many different teams as a radiographer. You have to adapt to everybody else’s way of working.

‘You can work in every department within a week. One day you may be in the emergency department. You generally work a week at a time.

‘The next week you might be in pediatrics working with children, the next week you might be working in the out-patient department which is when you're working closely with the orthopedic clinic, or the rheumatology clinic. The next week you might be in theatre and you're working with all the theatre staff.

‘It's an extremely varied working environment for a radiographer.’

A major highlight of Morag’s career was meeting Princess Anne in 2010 when she came to the official opening of Fareham Community Hospital.

‘I opened Fareham Hospital. I was the person who helped design the department and commission the equipment and then I met Princess Anne when she came and opened it,’ she explains.

‘I was primed in how to greet her and then when she arrived I just went, “oh, hello, come in”, she laughs. ‘That is definitely a lasting memory.’

In 2016, Morag and the radiography team at QA were awarded Southeast Regional Team of the Year in a regional accolade from the Houses of Parliament which was one of her proudest achievements.

‘Throughout my career I've pretty much done everything that there was at various times,’ says Morag.

‘I was the super intendent in CT which I was in charge of for a few years. Although CT didn't actually exist when I initially trained. There were only two CT scanners in the whole of the country. One was in Glasgow and one was in London.

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‘An MRI didn't exist until the '80s so it's come on since I've qualified. Ultrasound was only one person doing it for half a day a week when I started whereas now it's a whole thing. There's lots of different technologies that have been introduced.

‘When I started, there were dark rooms, [which allows for the processing of light-sensitive photographic materials], and a lot of the time there was wet developing.

‘There were processors in the dark room and now it's computers and instant images. There have been changes all the way through to get to that point.’

Morag is still working at QA but has cut her hours to 28-and-a-half hours a week as she nears retirement.

The grandmother is planning to travel to Australia, South Africa, South America and parts of Europe with her husband Alan. It’s something she has always dreamt of doing but put on hold due to various commitments. ‘I was somebody who got married and had children,’ she says.

‘Not that I gave up work, I worked full time up until about four to five years ago. It is a very, very good career path. It's not something that's promoted particularly well.

‘If you think of the NHS, you think of doctors and nurses and that radiographers just happen in the background. But a lot of places would not function without us.’