Dedicated Hinchingbrooke Hospital nurse who was ‘driving force in improving cancer care’ retires after four decades

Lynda Hall pictured in her student nursing days, and more recently as Macmillan lead cancer nurse. P

Lynda Hall pictured in her student nursing days, and more recently as Macmillan lead cancer nurse. Picture: MACMILLAN - Credit: Archant

A senior cancer nurse at North West Anglia Foundation Trust is hanging up her boots after four decades of caring for critically ill patients around the country.

Macmillan lead cancer nurse Lynda Hall, 56, experienced two events that would determine her decision to devote her life to caring for others.

The first, at 16, was the loss of a friend and the second was a blighted attempt to join the police force.

She explained: “When I was a teenager, I had a very good friend who was involved in a road traffic accident and I wasn’t allowed to visit him in intensive care because I wasn’t family. It was really hard.

“Unfortunately, he died and that whole experience got me thinking about nursing as a career. That and the fact my other plan to become a police dog handler quickly evaporated, when it turned out women weren’t allowed to become dog handlers in the 80s!”

Her course maped out, Lynda enrolled in nursing training at North Lonsdale Hospital in Barrow-in-Furness, before working as an intensive care nurse at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester and then the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for a decade.

She became a Macmillan breast cancer nurse specialist at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in 1997.

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She said: “When I was a student nurse, a Sister on one of the wards told us to “Treat every patient you meet as if they were your mum or dad, and that way you’ll never go wrong.

“Forty years later I still say that to the young nurses I meet. It’s just so true – if all of us treated people like we’d want our parents to be treated, we’d all do a great job.”

Lynda, who officially retired at the end of June, will leave behind a legacy of specialist cancer services and healthcare professional roles that she developed with the support of Macmillan Cancer Support at Peterborough City and Hinchingbrooke hospitals.

She oversaw the development of numerous ground-breaking new services over the course of her 20-year tenure as lead cancer nurse, working with Macmillan on investments of more than £2m to improve and deliver more personalised, one to one care and support for everyone living with cancer.

Looking back, she said: “I think my biggest achievement was getting permission from the chief executive of Hinchingbrooke back in 1995 to start fundraising for the extension at the Macmillan Woodlands Centre – and then working with colleagues, patients, fundraisers and Macmillan to raise the £1.3m needed for our state-of-the-art cancer unit.”

Lynda, who is married and has two grown-up children, is looking forward to long days playing golf and spending more time with her grandson, Finley, age four.

But she won’t be letting go of nursing just yet, after Covid-19 derailed attempts to recruit her successor. She’ll be working part-time until a replacement is found.

She said: “There’s no doubt I’m going to miss this job. It’s been such a huge part of my life that in a sense it becomes a part of you, comes to define you.

“But all good things must come to an end and it’s time for some fresh eyes and fresh blood to bring in some new ideas.

“As a nurse, you develop some very close relationships with patients because you’re that constant as they go through tests and treatment, which is a very privileged position to be in.”

Lynda Thomas, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Lynda has been the driving force behind so many of Macmillan’s investments in improving cancer care in Huntingdon and Peterborough – from recruiting new cancer nurse specialists, establishing breast care and community cancer services to ensuring people get the personalised help and support they need during and after treatment.

“We have been privileged to work with a true nursing visionary.”