Hospital trust director retires after 42 years working in NHS

Shelagh Smith, BHRUT chief operating officer

Shelagh Smith, BHRUT chief operating officer, has retired after 42 years working in the NHS. - Credit: BHRUT

A boss at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust has retired after 42 years in the NHS.

Shelagh Smith, the trust's chief operating officer (COO), has ended her career that began as a diagnostic radiographer at St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Her decision comes after she has helped to lead the response of Queen's and King George Hospitals to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: “The pandemic really put things into perspective for me. Like a lot of people I’ve worked constantly through it and it’s been fulfilling. 

"However, I’ve also seen so many people get sick and become incapacitated. I’ve realised there are things I want to do while I’m able.”


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The Brentwood resident worked on one of the first CT scanners in London and also led the roll-out of faster CT scanning at the Royal Free Hospital.

After five years working in the private sector, Shelagh returned to the NHS at the Royal Marsden Hospital, where she was radiology business manager and principal radiographer.

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She moved to BHRUT in 2007 to support its radiology department.

Shelagh, 63, has led services and been director of operations at King George before moving into her current role.

She added: “I’m proud to have become a COO in a trust I’m passionate about and which serves my family and friends.

"It’s also been great to be a role model for my profession, as only a handful of radiographers have followed this career route.

"I never had ambitions to be a board director, but if you live for what you’re doing and see where it takes you, there’s no ceiling. Never assume there are limits on your career.”

Playing a role in the Covid response has been her greatest achievement, she felt.

“I remember coming in with no idea how we would manage. Every step of the way, there was someone who just knew what to do.

"The camaraderie and ‘we’ve got this’ attitude was amazing and made such a difference when things were tough.

"People were pushed to their limits and it was humbling to see how everyone pulled together.”

Shelagh now hopes to spend more time with her family and travel with her husband Graham when restrictions allow.

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