Charlotte Kratz

Champion of district nursing

Charlotte Regina Kratz, nurse and journalist: born Dortmund, Germany 5 May 1922; Superintendent, District Nursing Service, Dar es Salaam 1959-63; MBE 1985; died Eastbourne, East Sussex 3 October 2006.

Charlotte Kratz was one of the most influential British nurses in the 20th century. The first nurse to graduate as a doctor of philosophy, she was a German Jewish refugee, who built on her experience as superintendent of the Dar es Salaam District Nursing Service to secure special training for community nurses in the United Kingdom. Her name became synonymous with the development of community nursing, both in Britain and internationally. In the early 1970s she was a founder member of the Department of Nursing in Manchester University and in 1979 was editor of The Nursing Process.

Born in Dortmund in 1922, the only child of Norbert and Johanna Kratz, she was sent to Storrington School in Westcliffe-on-Sea. The headmistress offered to stand security for her parents so that they could escape the German persecution of the Jews and join their daughter in England. Due to bureaucratic bungling their papers were not completed before the outbreak of the Second World War and Charlotte never saw her father and mother again. They were sent to a concentration camp.

As a teenager, Charlotte Kratz was seriously ill and spent nearly a year in hospital. It was then that she decided to become a nurse. In Germany nursing was a "non-job" and she had never considered it. It took some time for St Thomas's to accept her as a student "because she was not the sort of person they normally had", she recalled, but she began training in 1944 and gained a bronze medal.

Because of the war, part of her time as a student was spent at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, "where I learnt to sweep and dust". Subsequently she trained as a district nurse. East Sussex County Council offered to sponsor her but on receipt of her personal details "could not place her"; instead Berkshire launched Kratz on a career that was to affect all community nurses.

Working as a district nurse, Kratz saw advertised a job she didn't really want, but applied for it, and to her surprise was appointed a nursing officer at the Queen's Institute of District Nursing. Then, involved in recruiting a superintendent for the district nursing in Dar es Salaam, then in Tanganyika, Kratz was so frustrated that she decided to apply herself . This, in 1959, was probably not only the most unorthodox but also her most challenging appointment yet, and in her own mind acted as a sort of "finishing school".

Returning to England in 1963, she trained as a community nurse tutor and became the first community health tutor in Britain, at the Royal Free Hospital in London. In 1974 she and another nurse, Dorothy Baker, started the development of a department of nursing in Manchester University. In another first, Kratz found herself teaching the sociology of nursing. She researched long-term care, particularly of stroke patients. On completion of her PhD in 1974 she was offered a Department of Health and Social Service research appointment in the Department of Nursing at Manchester, but this position became progressively more untenable and she resigned in 1976.

She became a campaigning journalist, freelancing with the Nursing Times, until she retired in 1988. District nursing discovered a champion in Kratz. Through her, the Nursing Times took on the District Nurses Action Campaign as an issue, and she found herself elected (at the age of 61) to the newly formed English National Board for Nursing and to the United Kingdom Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting. In 1983 she was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and in 1985 was appointed MBE.

In 1955 Kratz decided it was time to become a Christian, "having been on the periphery for many years". She worked with the Council of Christians and Jews, and supported Christian Aid. In her retirement in Sussex she divided her time equally between working for St Mary's Church, Willingdon, where she ran the parish fete, and the Women's Institute.

Laurence Dopson