Peggy Mardell

Innovative nurse leader

Peggy Mardell entered the nursing profession unusually as a fever nurse, at a little-known infectious-diseases hospital. She took her general training at a hospital in a small town. But there she was a gold medallist and, while she never worked at famous hospitals, she became a regional nursing officer who befriended senior nurses in a time of stressful change.



Peggy Joyce Mardell, nurse: born Edmonton, Middlesex 8 July 1927; Assistant Regional Nursing Officer, North East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board 1964-70; Chief Regional Nursing Officer, North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board 1970-74; Regional Nursing Officer, North West Thames Health Authority 1974-82; CBE 1982; died Worthing, West Sussex 2 May 2004.



Peggy Mardell entered the nursing profession unusually as a fever nurse, at a little-known infectious-diseases hospital. She took her general training at a hospital in a small town. But there she was a gold medallist and, while she never worked at famous hospitals, she became a regional nursing officer who befriended senior nurses in a time of stressful change.

If Mardell was missing from her office, the stock answer to the query "Where is Miss Mardell?" was "Probably looking for someone who needs help". It was a habit she acquired early. When she was a girl, her father, Edward Mardell, a master-craftsman carpenter in Edmonton, north London, and her mother, Edith, were not always pleased when their only child brought home a stranger with a problem whom she had befriended.

It was an instinct which led her to nursing, although later she was to joke that she chose nursing because she wanted a career which was secure and carried a pension at the end of it. She left the George Spicer School, Enfield, at 17. Nineteen was the youngest age at which she could start training as a general nurse, so she took a fever-nurse training at Highlands Hospital, London.

Having become a registered fever nurse, she reverted to a student nurse for the general training at East Suffolk Hospital, Ipswich. There she won the gold medal as the best student of her set. Later she gained an honours diploma as a nurse tutor. She also qualified as a midwife. She was a teacher at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford, after being ward sister and night sister at Bethnal Green Hospital in London.

She entered administration as assistant regional nursing officer with the North East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board in 1964, becoming chief regional nursing officer with North West Metropolitan RHB in 1970 and regional nursing officer to its successor, North West Thames Health Authority, from 1974 to 1982, through the major reorganisation of the NHS.

In these posts she was an innovator and facilitator. She picked out skills in people and developed them. She had to oversee the transfer of community nursing services from local authorities to health authorities. She started the first move toward computerisation, and was particularly concerned with manpower planning. From 1970 to 1982 she was the nurse member on Surrey Area Health Committee. In 1982 she was appointed CBE.

Her hobbies were renovating antique furniture, gardening, reading, animals and all things Italian. She liked the novels of Dickens, but her favourite book was Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals. She had a succession of dachshunds as pets and finally was sharing, with her friend Daphne Powell, the rehabilitation of an ill-treated Jack Russell, who survives her. (She also adopted a donkey, Tom Harrison, at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary). She spent her holidays in Italy, was a fluent Italian-speaker, and had only recently fitted out the bathroom in her Worthing flat with a Venetian theme.

Laurence Dopson

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