Body and soul care

02 November 2006

THERE are now three Parish Nurses in the diocese of Peterborough (21 in the country). Lesley Johnson has just been commissioned after 33 years in the NHS, where she moved from general nursing and midwifery to public health and finally became the infection-control specialist for the county. (She's glad to be out of the way of bird flu, she tells me.)

A member of the congregation at St Mark's, Wellingborough, she is available to anyone after services, regularly visits the local care home, and spends an hour or two at the Saturday-morning café in the church hall.

She works closely with the Vicar, the Revd Mandy Cuthbertson, the pastoral assistants, and the local medical centre, but people come to her with all manner of questions, she tells me.

The large council estates surrounding the church have many residents who "need guidance through the maze of the NHS". She gets queries about medications and ailments, but "I never contradict a doctor." There are also more spiritual questions: how to make sense of a healing service that "didn't work", mental health problems, and coping with long-term illnesses. She has been in the job only three weeks, but already full use is being made of her services.

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