Nursing couple retire

A couple who have notched up nearly 70 years between them in Norfolk's mental health service will be retiring this week.

During their respective 35 and 33 years' service, Ivan and Linda Harwood witnessed massive changes in the way people with mental health disorders are treated.

But the couple, who lived in Taverham for many years and have eight grandchildren, say that the stigma and taboo surrounding mental health issues has unfortunately endured.

Mr Harwood, who will be 55 on December 1, started worked as a student nurse in 1975 at St Andrew's Hospital in Thorpe St Andrew. He had been working as an engineer but, after hearing about the work of a friend in mental health, he decided to change career.

Since then he has seen the service change dramatically, with the closure of the hospital and the drive towards more care in the community.

The Norwich-based mental health community nurse, who has looked after people with long-term severe disorders such as schizophrenia, said: 'I have really enjoyed it. We have had our ups and downs over the years in terms of our careers, but it's been mostly fantastic.

'We have worked with lots and lots of people with mental health disorders, some I have known for 35 years. The biggest change has been the move to care in the community. The improvements in drugs has meant that people are no longer removed from their homes and families for long periods of times.'

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Mrs Harwood, 51, who is retiring early through voluntary redundancy, started in 1977 as a pupil nurse.

Now a primary practice development lead based in Wymondham, it has been her role to supervise and work with other clinicians at GP surgeries, such as occupational therapists, on short-term interventions to help people with less severe mental health problems. She said: 'One of the nice things about working it the community is being able to work with the families as well, so that they have a better understanding of what that relative is going through.'

The couple, who now live in Attleborough, were childhood sweethearts and met through their church when they were 12 and 15.

They are now looking forward to taking a trip to New Zealand.

Do you have a health story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email