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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Patient profiles

Four of the patients featured in Panorama's "Undercover Nurse" died before the film was broadcast. We are very grateful to their relatives and friends for talking to us about their lives.

Ivy Constable

Ivy was the youngest of thirteen children. Of her generation, she was the last to pass away. Ivy was born in the Portslade area of Brighton and lived and worked there for most of her life. She worked for one dry cleaning company from the age of eighteen to retirement.

Ivy died in hospital, soon after we had filmed with her, aged 96.

Her niece said her aunt was

"An outdoors lady and loved going for long walks, particularly round the seafront and harbour of Portslade. Ivy thought this is what had kept her fit and well for so long."

Jessie Mowitt

Jessie died of cancer, aged 86. She spent the last four weeks of her life in the wards where Panorama filmed.

Jessie used to work for the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. The ILO is an agency of the United Nations.

Jessie was an independent woman. She spoke three languages. She chose to live in Brighton after retirement so that she could visit London's art galleries which she loved.

One of her closest friends, Betty Zonca, described her as being unconventional - a true free spirit:

"She just wanted to be free to pick up and go. Planning wasn't in Jessie's scheme of things... no, she did things as the mood took her ... that's why she was a fantastic friend."

Gwenda Thackray

Gwenda married in 1945 and had two sons. She remarried after the death of her first husband. It was with her second husband that she moved to Brighton. They knew and liked the area having spent time there in a holiday flat.

She was a keen church goer and was very involved in church activities. She also loved gardening.

Gwenda was diagnosed with liver cancer and died at the end of 2004.

Her son George Kelly told us that during her time in hospital

"She had good days and bad days┐ Sometimes she was very much like her old self. It was amazing. There'd be a flash and she'd say something as she would normally, which was a reminder of how she used to be."

Hilda Burnham

Hilda had wanted to be a nurse since her school days but she was born in Rochdale, Lancashire where it was traditional for all the girls to work in the mills. However, she was determined and so by her early twenties she'd realised her dream. She was nursing in York when she met her husband-to-be, John Burnham, who was a serviceman. They got married in 1940 and wrote each other letters every day when they were apart during the war.

Hilda's nursing background meant that she knew a lot about what she thought good nursing should be. She told our undercover reporter Shabnam Grewal what she thought makes a good nurse:

"Being able to feel in your own heart what the patient is feeling. You can't nurse and be indifferent to your patients. They become, no matter how you try not to, they become interwoven into your life."

Hilda and John had three sons and ran a corner shop together after the war.

Hilda returned home after we filmed but she died shortly after in January 2005 on a hospital trolley in A&E.


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