‘Be very proud’ call to nurses from retiring Kate

After a career in nursing spanning almost forty three years, Oxford Health’s Head of Service for Community Rehabilitation doesn’t plan to let the grass grow under her feet.

‘Be very proud’ call to nurses from retiring Kate

Kate Riddle has been with the Trust since 1997 and has worked in a wide range of roles that have encompassed Nursing leadership & safeguarding roles and started with the Trust as a school Health nurse

And, with ‘retirement’ about to begin, a proud nurse and keen gardener takes a look back on her career – much of it spent as part of the Oxford Health family.

Inspired to help people

Kate was drawn to nursing out of a desire to help people and a bit of inspiration from a family member. She explained: “My aunt was a nurse and wasn’t that much older than me. I thought it was an exciting job, working with people and I liked the idea of earning a salary while getting a qualification and living away from home in London.”

She started working as a student nurse in Middlesex hospital London on December 8th 1980 – a date remembered by many as the day that sadly John Lennon was shot.

She explained: “28 of us started that day training to do our nurse training.  “Lots of good friendships were made and many of us are still in regular contact. This was a general nursing course so we had a wide range of experience including maternity, paediatrics and oncology and saw some amazing unusual cases given the Middlesex Hospital’s specialisms.

“It was a lot of fun. In those days we worked hard on shift and had periods of study as well as enjoying ourselves living in central London. As young people at the start of our careers it was  an exciting and vibrant time to be in London.

“The royal wedding in 1982 sticks in my mind as we all went and waved at Charles and Diana. There were also a lot of these social challenges in the early 80s, as there were also IRA bombings at the time including the horse guards in Hyde Park. Even outside our flat the road would be cordoned off, this was also a time of the riots in Brixton. This was also a time of the start of the AIDs epidemic with the Middlesex being at the centre of caring for these patients.

“Once I qualified I knew I wanted to work in the community, so I did my midwifery in High Wycombe then returned to London to train and work as a health visitor.

“I came to Oxford in October 1997 and rang up the Trust seeking work and was told that they needed a school nurse, so I joined part time on a fixed term contract at Abingdon Hospital.

“I found the professional development opportunities within the Community Trust at that striking as within two years I had the chance to go to Brookes to undertake my Specialist Practitioner ( School Health ) degree in public health. The theme of ongoing professional development opportunities is something that I feel is still strong here at the Trust to this day.”

After working as a school nurse for a number of years and then as part of the practice development unit Kate then became a named safeguarding nurse – one of the first for South and South West Primary Care Group – as a result of new national requirement following the Victoria Climbie inquiry.

When Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust was created in in 2011 she became service manager for safeguarding leading the new Trustwide service .

She was on the Serious Case Review panel for Operation Bullfinch and found the experience ‘humbling, challenging and a time of great change in agencies response to working with young people who were being exploited’.

Then in 2015 she felt it was time for a change when a head of nursing role for Children and Young people came up. In 2018 she was promoted to the deputy director of nursing then in 2019 acted up as director of nursing prior to Marie Crofts arriving.

Then in 2020 COVID hit, which brought massive challenges for the Trust.

“By end of 2020 I had worked for 40 years and was thinking what do I want to do next. I was thinking of stopping but I had the opportunity to return to community directorate and picked up acting head of service for community hospitals and then the permanent role and I’ve done that for the last two and a half years. It feels like I have come full circle back to community services where I started which is a fantastic way to end.

“I have loved working with the community hospitals teams and they were under great strain during COVID and did an amazing job throughout

“During the last two years, the matrons won a national Community Hospital Association innovation & Best practice award in 2022, the service has worked in partnership with Sue Ryder to open two new End Of Life beds on St Leonards Ward Wallingford, achieved some amazing international recruitment. The new model Oxford Health has of growing our own where we have seen healthcare assistants come in and develop into nursing gaining their qualifications while working is a very good one. It means we can get more people living locally joining us and staying with us.

“Our Advanced Clinical Practitioners and new medic model has really strengthened the quality of care we can provide to our patients. The leadership team have grown and developed together and most importantly patient feedback continues to be excellent.– and I know that they will go from strength to strength.

“I love supporting professional development and leadership within a service. One of my lasting passions has been supporting and developing people and I plan to do some of that alongside taking a bit more time to enjoy life, family and the garden.”

A model for a fantastic career


Looking to the future, Kate believes that nursing has great potential for many people. She explained: “I’m very proud to be a nurse – nursing is a fantastic career and provides so many great career opportunities.

“I have tried to bring compassionate leadership in all my roles and supporting people to enable them to grow and develop. I have completed coaching qualifications and will be coaching people, so I’m looking forward to having time to do more of that work.”

As Kate heads into retirement Emma Leaver, Service Director, reflected: “I have had the pleasure of working alongside Kate since her role in children’s services in 2011.

“Kate is a leader who truly lives and breathes the trust values of safe, caring, and excellent, and adds her own dose of humour and commitment to her approach. Kate rejoined the directorate to head up our community hospital pathway at a time when they were lacking robust leadership and needed someone with a vision, but also the ability to give high support and high challenge. Kate has stepped perfectly into that role and has managed to get alongside staff delivering care to really understand the lived experience of our staff working on the wards.

“I recall Kate working clinically in Abbey Ward in Abingdon and sharing a story of the David Beckham shower gel she had used that morning to wash a patient.

“Kate is someone who sees the potential in staff and helps them to fulfil it. That has in turn developed a leadership team embracing system working, overseeing excellent care and leading with compassion and a focus on both patient and staff experience. Kate came back to the directorate being clear this was her last role before retirement and that she wanted to make a difference.

“You have absolutely smashed that ambition Kate and you leave us in a far better place than you found us. We wish you a long happy and healthy retirement and are delighted you have agreed to continue to stay in touch!”

How do you rate this page?

Thank you for your feedback

Follow us on social media to stay up to date

We are sorry you did not find this page helpful

Tell us how we can improve this page

Published: 5 September 2023