She has loyally served the NHS for nearly four decades but now Linda Bromwich is finally saying goodbye – leaving a ‘remarkable legacy’ in Walsall.
Head of Speech and Language Therapy Linda is retiring, 38 years and four months after qualifying as a therapist in 1983, when she joined Walsall Speech and Language Therapy Service at the former Walsall Health Authority.
Having been Head of Service for 32 years and just celebrated her 60th birthday, Linda has so many happy memories of her time at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust – but an invite to the Houses of Parliament and 10 Downing Street probably tops her list.
This came in 2005 after she started the Team Around the Child, part of a national programme for children with communication difficulties which involved developing communication skills for children in secondary schools.
The committee was chaired by Lord David Ramsbotham, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, who identified an unmet need for speech and language therapy in secondary school age.
“I got invited to the Houses in Parliament to present to an all-party committee on speech, language and communication needs,” recalled Linda.
“Lord Ramsbotham took us around No 10 and the Houses of Parliament and we got to see the Commons in action. He took us for lunch too.
“Schools in Walsall were struggling to see the relevance of the idea so he came to the town to talk to people – he was a real champion of it and it opened doors for us.”
Some of Linda’s proudest achievements are much closer to home, however.
“It has to be my team here,” she said. “I am so proud of them and they are so committed. Most of the team have come here as newly qualified therapists and stayed.
“It’s great to work with people from the age of 21, 22 and watch them grow, develop, share the values we have and watch how much they put back into the service.
“It’s also great to see how that translates to the children and adults we have, and seeing them develop as well.”
With a succession plan in place, Linda feels it’s the right time to take things a little easier.
“I feel you reach a point where you know when you’re going to go and this is probably my time,” said Linda.
“I have a really strong team of people I work with and I think it’s time for someone with new ideas and a fresh approach to take the helm.
“That person is Liz Wassall, who has worked with me for 20 years. She came here when she was newly qualified when I was head of the service and has grown and developed to be next in command.”
It’s clear the feeling is mutual as Principal Speech and Language Therapist
Liz paid tribute to Linda, saying: “Linda has been a staunch advocate for everyone having a means to communicate and the right to have a voice.
“She has tirelessly worked to build a varied range of services to support children and adults with feeding, swallowing and communication needs.
“Linda’s strong belief in the NHS and her love of partnership working, her passion around developing individuals’ personal development and her innovative approach to developing roles and services leaves a remarkable legacy.”
The SLT team had a Best Practice Day on Tuesday 14 where Liz made a speech and presentation to Linda.
In addition, the SLT and CDC teams have started a book of goodbye messages for Linda. Staff can email Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org for their messages to be included.
Mum of five Linda recently became a grandmother when daughter Dawn, 34, gave birth to Wilfred at Walsall Manor Hospital. And it’s clear this is where her heart is.
“I love the people of Walsall,” said Linda, who lives locally and hails from Shirley, near Solihull. “They are a very strong, resilient population. They face a lot of challenges but they’re great to deal with.”
As for what Linda will do with her time, one thing almost guaranteed to play a part in her life is music.
Husband of 29 years Philip, a retired head teacher of a special school in Dudley, teaches the ukulele and their children all play the piano – while Emily, 21, also plays the cello, George, 23, is adept on the double bass, Alice, 24, also plays the saxophone and clarinet, Dawn is also an expert on the clarinet and Verity, 36, sings.
Linda’s last working day will be Wednesday 22 December and she officially finishes on New Year’s Eve.