Southend Hospital nurse Jean Colclough, 74, to retire

Jean Colclough Southend Hospital's Jean Colclough started work in the same year as the Suez crisis, 1956.

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A woman thought to be the longest serving nurse in the country is poised to retire - though has not ruled out a return to duties as a bank nurse.

Southend Hospital's Jean Colclough started work in the same year as the Suez crisis, 1956.

On a salary of £260 per year when she started, the 74-year-old now has 56 years of service behind her.

Ms Colclough said she was retiring for pension reasons adding: "I would happily stay on."

'Not going to be easy'

Shortly after she qualified as a nurse in 1960, she ended up in the London Chest Hospital with an aggressive condition bronchiectasis. She had most of her left lung removed and was told by a consultant she was unlikely to live beyond 40.

Initially, she wanted to train as a doctor, but her parents could not afford the university fees.

It is not a cause for regret. "I don't think I could have done better than I have done. It's been lovely - every ward I worked on was the best place I had ever been," she said.

"My retirement letter was the hardest I have ever had to write," she said. "I was on my own and just sat there and grizzled. I would happily stay on.

Jean Colclough, far left, with colleagues early in her career Jean Colclough, far left, with colleagues early in her career

"Just stopping is not going to be easy. I would certainly consider coming back on the bank. But first we have to move house."

Hospital discharge coordinator Sandra Steeples, said: "Jean will be so greatly missed, and I wish I could clone her - and bottle her energy."

The hospital said it had tried to establish whether Ms Colclough was the nation's longest-serving NHS nurse. A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "We have heard of other nurses who have clocked up 50 years - but not 56."

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