'I will miss her enormously' - husband's tribute to NHS hero Carol

Carol Malpass was the practice manager at Bell Lane Surgery and later the Birches

Carol Malpass was the practice manager at Bell Lane Surgery and later the Birches - Credit: Family picture

Tributes have been paid to a Suffolk NHS hero who gave her life to the service following her death at the age of 73.  

Carol Malpass from Kesgrave worked across the local NHS for much of her life.  

She left Nacton Academy school in 1963 to train as a student nurse at Heath Road Hospital on the Jenner Ward but also attended Felixstowe General Hospital and Stowlodge Geriatric Hospital near Stowmarket during her three-year training period.  

She remained at Ipswich Hospital even after marrying in 1968, only leaving to have her two daughters. 

In 1977 she returned to the NHS, joining the Bell Lane Surgery in Kesgrave as a receptionist.  

David and Carol Malpass on the River Orwell in 2015

David and Carol Malpass on the River Orwell in 2015 - Credit: Family picture

At that time the surgery’s senior doctor was Dr Fairbairn assisted by Dr Young and Dr Ashford. Bell Lane was a branch surgery of Little St Johns Street Woodbridge. 

The village of Kesgrave, as it was then, continued to grow and that, coupled with changes to the NHS, meant the surgery required a practice manager to oversee its running.  

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Carol volunteered for training and in 1983 was one of the first practice managers in the country to take up such a role after gaining her diploma.  

That same year Martlesham Heath Surgery was established, which Carol also took on.  

For 15 years she ran all three surgeries, Little St Johns Street, Bell Lane and Martlesham Heath.  

During this time, she oversaw a number of upgrades to the surgeries and in 1995 she was involved in selling off the Bell Lane practice to source land for a larger centre which would become the Birches Medical Centre.  

In 1997 Dr Young retired with the Woodbridge practice then splitting away. Given the choice of where to work, Carol chose Kesgrave where she helped to oversee the transition to Birches despite serious problems.  

Not being one to have patients left with no doctors to care for them, Carol arranged for a number of portable buildings to be erected temporarily on land adjacent to the proposed new surgery.  

A weekend was fixed for the transfer of patients notes from Bell Lane to the pop-up surgery using shopping trolleys borrowed from Tesco. 

Carol’s army style evacuation won through and the temporary surgery lasted 14 months.  

She remained Practice Manager at Kesgrave until her retirement in 2013.  

Dr Young referred to Carol as having given the practice “complete loyalty and devotion and was a great example to us all”, another doctor described her as “a lovely person” adding “she was extremely talented at her job, and I felt privileged to have known her”. 

Outside of work, Carol was a very active member of the Woodbridge and District Lions Club.  

During the 1990s she and some 12 fellow Lions went to Zagreb, Croatia in six 30 tonne lorries in what was called 'The British National Shoe Box Appeal'.  

Each lorry was packed with shoe boxes providing basic everyday supplies such as soap and toothbrushes for grown-ups, and the same for the children but including a small toy.  

They went deep into war torn areas sometimes sleeping on school sport hall rubber mats.  

She said the most impoverished people she came across were families with very young children living in old train carriages with hard wooden seats to sleep on.  

Carol described it as one of the hardest, most gut-wrenching situations she had ever come across. 

However, her role within the group for the entire trip over the Easter Holiday period was medical back up because of her nursing training and she was affectionally known as “Nursey” amongst the Lions. 

At home she managed the Lions annual Christmas Parcel Appeal providing over 200 parcels to the lonely and needy, and also the annual Swimming Gala for under privileged young adults at Crown Pools in Ipswich, both of which she did for many years.  

She was a popular Club President presiding over the club twice, in 2006 and again in 2013. 

Carol died at St Elizabeth’s Hospice on October 23, 2020.  

She was survived by her husband David, to whom she was married for 52 years, and their two daughters, Lynn and Dr Alice. 

Speaking about his wife David said: "My wife was a very private person, never complained about her ill health which was an inherited condition, but would always have time for anyone who needed help themselves. 

"She had empathy with people and was a very good judge of character. With such skills she built an amazing team of support staff at her surgery.

"I first met her at a youth club presentation, a play called  'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' a take on the Easter vigil. She was a reporter and really stood out from the others as she wore a vivid Irish green jacket and skirt and looking very smart. She had an eye for design too.

"I have been very lucky to have known her for over 60 years, the last three being particularly difficult due to failing health.

"I am very privileged to say, as her husband, that Windsor Castle wrote to us about that time, to say 'The Queen was sorry to learn that your wife had died recently and Her Majesty sends her sympathy to you at this sad time'.

"Over all, she was a very wise wife and mum who served her community in an exemplary way.

"I will miss her enormously."