A familiar face is retiring from West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust after decades working in healthcare.

Val Dutton, who lives near Sudbury and works as voluntary services manager at West Suffolk Hospital, Newmarket County Hospital and Glastonbury Court care home, will retire next week. 

The mother-of-four qualified and worked as a hairdresser before she started work as a domestic assistant at the Jane Walker Hospital in Nayland, which cared for people with learning disabilities.

By 23, she had progressed to being the manager.

Of her time at Jane Walker Hospital, she said: "As soon as I started there I loved it, hospitals just got into my blood." 

When the hospital closed, Val joined community services providing hotel services at a number of sites before she became deputy risk manager at Thingoe House in Bury St Edmunds.

East Anglian Daily Times: Val Dutton has worked in healthcare since she joined Jane Walker Hospital in NaylandVal Dutton has worked in healthcare since she joined Jane Walker Hospital in Nayland (Image: West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust)

In 2000, Val became a health and safety officer at West Suffolk Hospital and four years later she joined the mental health trust as risk manager which she said she found stressful, but rewarding.

In 2006, the death of her husband and her own health issues meant she had to give up her demanding role.

“I could not do that job, but I could not just do nothing,” she said.

“I knew people at the WSH and it was very kindly agreed that I could have a Bank contract here, to see what I could do.

"Medicine and treatment helped improve my health and after doing a wide variety of tasks, I became the volunteer co-ordinator in 2012.”

Of her time as co-ordinator, Val said: "It’s a win-win for the volunteers and the Trust. They are so thrilled to start and so enthusiastic, and such a support to staff, patients and visitors.

“One of the things I am very proud of is the setting up of the student programme, giving opportunities for young people who are interested in a health service career.

"To do that we have had to develop relationships within the Trust and with schools and colleges, it has not been easy but it’s been a great success which we know will continue.”

Val said when she retires she will start volunteering in her local area as well as learn Portuguese, which her two grandsons speak. 

She said: "I am looking forward to it, but I have loved my work here and will greatly miss everyone, especially my team who are the best. But I’ll keep in touch."

Chief executive officer Dr Ewen Cameron said: “Val has had such a huge impact over her many years working in the organisation leading volunteering services and will leave a significant legacy. 

"I hope she enjoys her well-deserved retirement.”