Dedication of our hospital staff must be appreciated

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Her career may have been longer than most but Irene Woodward is the perfect example of why nurses and hospital staff are held in such high esteem by the general public.

This year has been a difficult one with many questions asked about how our health service should be funded in the future.

We've already seen cuts change the way some things have to be done.

These issues won't vanish in the new year. In fact, many are bracing themselves for more spending cuts, and the debate on how our National Health Service is paid for and managed is only set to intensify in 2011.

And yet what comes shining through – despite the many challenges – is the dedication of people like Mrs Woodward.

She's given the people of Portsmouth 47 years of service and care. Her lengthy career has seen her go from trainee nurse to theatre practitioner and made her Queen Alexandra Hospital's longest-serving nurse.

It's a great achievement and one that we are certain she must be very proud of indeed.

You don't need to have come into contact with Mrs Woodward though to appreciate that it is the nurses, doctors and other hospital staff who form the backbone of our NHS.

Going by this newspaper's letters page, we know how much the public appreciate their efforts and how passionate they are about the services on offer.

We were proud to be involved in the inaugural Best of Health Awards earlier this year and know that our readers were more than happy to rise to the challenge of nominating healthcare staff who had made a difference to their lives.

As we go forward into a new year – and Mrs Woodward looks ahead to her time being her own again – it's worth pausing to reflect on the good work being done by the ordinary men and women who do something extra-ordinary to make our NHS admired all over the world.

We wish Mrs Woodward a very happy retirement. And to the colleagues she leaves behind, we say thank you.