Gloria Oates

Gloria OatesI went to the funeral of Gloria Oates today held at Manchester Cathedral where there was a congregation of hundreds paying their respects.

Gloria was my first boss in the NHS. She had worked her way from nurse to become AGM with North Western RHA in 1985, in between times having five daughters with her husband, Graham. You can read more about her career here, but suffice to say she was a formidable woman.

We first met while I was working for the Department of Health in the north west. It was the mid-1980s and NHS communications was in its infancy, but the pressure was on from the Conservative government to step up its act. In late 1985 Gloria called me me to tell me that NWRHA was advertising for a Regional PRO, “and you will be applying, won’t you?” You didn’t say no to Gloria.

I began work with the RHA in March 1986, but Gloria wasn’t my boss for long because she was appointed chief executive of Rochdale Health Authority the same year, but we stayed in touch because of my job. She later joined Oldham Health Authority and a kindred spirit in chairman, Mary Firth. Both were larger than life characters and were well matched.

I think Gloria fell out with me in 1995, although she never actually said so. RHAs were on the way out and she wanted me to join her at the Royal Oldham Hospital Trust and in fact I’d agreed to do so when I accepted another offer from Manchester Health Authority. She thought that commissioning would wither on the vine, but for me, it was where the comms action was to be with several major service reconfigurations in the offing.

There are many tales about Gloria, some repeated today at the hour-long service. Mine involves both Gloria and Mary and the arrangements for a photoshoot for their annual report profiles. It was arranged for Tuesday, that being Gloria’s weekly visit to the hairdresser, and each had brought a selection of outfits to pose in.

The poor old photographer spent hours taking what should have been a routine head and shoulders shot. When the contacts arrived, they were deemed simply not good enough and he had to go through the whole rigmarole again.

Despite her love of show, Gloria was a very sharp cookie and she never forgot the main purpose of her job was to improve services for patients which forever remained her motivation and a model of good management.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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