Our aunt Patsy Wright-Warren, who has died aged 86, was a Queen’s nurse whose bold heart and clear voice won respect and recognition for her profession. She represented nursing at the top level of NHS decision-making as deputy chief nursing officer, and later brought new focus to a group of charities founded by Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder.
The younger of two daughters, Patsy was born in East Sheen, south-west London, to Iona (nee Dransfield) and Christopher Wright-Warren, a lieutenant-colonel in the Indian army. In 1940 her school, Portsdown Lodge, near Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, evacuated to Cornwall, and she moved there with her mother and aunt. Later in the war, she boarded at St Mary’s school, Wantage, Oxfordshire.
Inspired by the story of the Australian nurse Elizabeth Kenny, Patsy threw herself into training at St Bartholomew’s hospital in post-blitz London. She loved the work, proud to be helping to build the foundations of the NHS as nurse, midwife and health visitor. She went on to provide leadership in district nursing in a range of posts from the south-east to the north-west of England. A constructive insider, she was a tenacious advocate for nurses when she transferred to the corridors of Whitehall as deputy chief nursing officer, determined to ensure that their financial and practical needs to deliver appropriate care for patients were well known at all levels.
After her retirement in 1989, she sang in local choirs, trained hearing dogs, raised funds for faraway charities, tended her Buckinghamshire garden and took an active role in her local church and community. But it was not enough. Parking her CBE for services to nursing on the kitchen shelf, Patsy knocked on the door of Leonard Cheshire, volunteering to work in developing countries. Recognising her arrival as a golden opportunity, he asked her to be overseas project officer in a charity he had founded with Sue Ryder when they married in 1959, and dear to their hearts.
So it was that, in her 60s and 70s, Patsy travelled the globe for the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation by bus, train and rickshaw, and when necessary slept on the floor in Nepal or Tanzania to hold the charity together, professionalise it and raise funds. As chair after the founders had died, she oversaw the transition of its work into more focused organisations, Target TB and Enrych, the latter enabling leisure and learning for people with disabilities in the UK.
Patsy is survived by her older sister, our mother, Diana Westlake, and eight nieces and nephews.