Psychiatric nurse retires after 39 years in the NHS

Steve Bonner, now, and when he first registered as a nurse in 1982

Steve Bonner worked as a nurse at Wellbeing Suffolk, based at Mariner House - Credit: Archant/Steve Bonner

A Suffolk psychiatric nurse who retired last year after nearly 40 years' service says he was inspired by the male nurses who helped him recover from a motorbike accident in Cyprus.

Steve Bonner, 66, who retired in October having been a nurse for 39 years, completed his general training in 1982.

He had been in a motorbike accident in Cyprus and while recovering in hospital he was helped by male nurses - once better he bought himself out of the RAF and took a place at Ipswich School of Nursing.

He went on to specialise in psychiatric nursing in 1985 - "back in the day where it wasn't a degree course, it was more practical-based". 

Based out of Mariner House, near Ipswich Town's football ground, Mr Bonner worked in the adult team for around 15 years, treating people with long-term mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression. 

He then moved up a band to work with the older persons team, mainly caring for those with dementia. 

In nearly 40 years of service, Mr Bonner saw a lot of changes at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Mariner House, IpswichComm PropEADT BUSINESSEAST 13/11/07

Mariner House, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

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Describing his latter years, he said: "All my visits were me on my bike. My caseload was Ipswich, at seven or eight different surgeries, so I'd travel to each on my bike - avoiding traffic or parking issues. 

"And our main aim was to try and keep people out of hospital, because it's less expensive, and it is better for someone to be managed in their own home rather than on a hospital ward. 

"So there's a lot of links and resources with other agencies. 

"But there are endless battles - certainly in older age psychiatry over who pays; whether it's the NHS, or social services, or the individual themselves. 

"And then I suppose that makes me think about how things were back in the day.  

"I'd see two patients in the morning and go back and write my notes by hand on a piece of paper, went out and saw two in the afternoon, wrote my notes by hand, and then go home - that was me for the day.  

"Whereas for the past 15 to 20 years everything has been computerised. Nothing's happened unless it's on the system. 

"That's the other sad bit really: the vast majority of a nurse's time is spent in front of a computer filling in the relevant forms as opposed to what people always imagine nursing to be which is face-to-face contact.  

"That's why people go into nursing, isn't it? To help people by being with people. 

"But Covid - and not just Covid, but the demands of the system - has changed what can be done.

"Bad Care Quality Commission reports are because you haven't got all your computer forms filled in. Nursing students would spend well over half their time tapping away on a keyboard.

"But whether that's good or bad I don't know, it's just the way of the world."

Steve Bonner worked as a psychiatric nurse in Ipswich

Steve Bonner worked as a nurse for nearly four decades - Credit: Steve Bonner

He says he isn't someone who seeks recognition for his work on the frontline but feels he was let down by the Long Service Award policy in place at NSFT, which were amended in 2016 and then again just before he left.

Mr Bonner said: "It was a shocker to find out that in 2017 I should have had some sort of acknowledgement from those higher up but didn't."

Head of employee experience Ade Adetukasi at the trust said: "Our Long Service Award policy was introduced in 2014 and the rewards given for long serving members of staff reviewed in 2016 and again in January 2021. 

"Mr Bonner's length of service was recognised in line with our policy at the time of his qualifying milestone year. We thank him for his commitment and wish him a happy and well-deserved retirement." 

"One of my hobbies is golf, so I'll play golf more. I play bass guitar but I'm not going to buy a transit van and tour the world or anything."

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