Three Generations!

 

  family tree  

Last November's IHEEM 'Heritage, Innovation and The Membership Balance' event at Westminster saw three Honorary Fellowships conferred - one to a 'third generation' member of IHEEM, Jeff Jackson, whose father and grandfather were also both members, his grandfather having joined the forerunner to today's Institute just four years after its formation, and before the founding of the NHS in 1948.  I recently met with him to find out more about his long-standing family connection with IHEEM, and the careers of all three family members.

Talking through with me the involvement of he, his father, Peter, and his grandfather, Albert (Ted) Jackson in IHEEM’s activities, and their respective careers over a period spanning the NHS’s entire history when we met up recently at his home in Yateley in Hampshire, it soon became clear from the affection with which Jeff Jackson spoke about the profession that he believes being a hospital engineer is just as much a vocation as being a surgeon, doctor, or nurse. He had, he said, been delighted and ‘pretty proud’ to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship of IHEEM last November – ‘a nice recognition’ of he, his father, and his grandfather’s contribution both to the Institute’s activities over the years and to the profession, and indeed wonders if there are many other IHEEM members who can lay claim to such a long-standing family involvement with the Institute. Last November’s IHEEM ‘Heritage, Innovation and The Membership Balance’ event at Westminster saw three Honorary Fellowships conferred – one to a ‘third generation’ member of IHEEM, Jeff Jackson, whose father and grandfather were both members, his grandfather having joined the forerunner to today’s Institute just two years after its formation, and before the founding of the NHS in 1948. HEJ editor, Jonathan Baillie, recently met with him to find out more about his long-standing family connection with IHEEM and the careers of all three family members.

While logically it makes sense to tell the story of three Jackson generations’ connections with IHEEM by beginning with his grandfather, Albert (‘Ted’), Jeff Jackson explained, by way of context, that he himself joined the NHS as an apprentice electrician in 1970, subsequently becoming a student member of the Institute of Hospital Engineers in July 1972. Spending much of his childhood living in hospital houses – his father Peter progressed up the ranks as a hospital engineer in locations including Derbyshire, Nottingham, Louth, Devizes, and Cardiff, Jeff soon became interested in following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps as a hospital engineer.

Empathy for the mentally unwell

While at school in Devizes, where his father, Peter, had been appointed Group Engineer at a large inpatient mental healthcare facility, Roundway Hospital, he remembers regularly ‘going into work’ with him in the hospital’s buildings during the school holidays. Living so close to the hospital also fostered a life-long empathy for those facing mental health issues, and indeed in the second half of his career he worked both hands-on and in senior managerial and Board-level positions in mental healthcare, including as an Estates and Facilities director for a Trust providing mental health services. He retired in 2011 after 41 years’ NHS service. More of his story, later.

Beginning our chat with his recollections of his grandfather, Albert, Jeff Jackson said the latter retained his enthusiasm for both the healthcare engineering profession and IHEEM well into his 80s; he died, aged 91.  His grandson, Jeff, who is now 63, admitted that some of his early memories of his grandfather were a little ‘sketchy’, but he was keen to share some of them. He said: “My grandfather, Albert, always known by his second name, ‘Ted’, grew up around Aston-on-Trent in Derbyshire and, having been locally educated, took up an electrical apprenticeship with a local firm, CA Newtons. After a few years, and a subsequent spell as the electrician at Mickleover Hospital – joining the hospital service before it became the NHS – he was appointed Assistant Engineer at Aston Hall Hospital in Aston upon Trent, a mental healthcare facility in Derbyshire, working alongside his younger brother, Arthur. In fact he remained on the staff there throughout his career, and was still working there part-time in his 70s. His links with IHEEM go back to 1947 when (as member number 591) he became an Associate Member of the Institution of Hospital Engineers. I remember visiting Aston Hall Hospital many times. My grandfather lived in a hospital house there, and I remember there were many family discussions about hospital engineering. He had a sizeable workforce of tradesmen and other engineers reporting to him, but regularly worked very ‘hands-on’, and loved the role.”

Original certificate

Jeff Jackson showed me his grandfather’s original membership certificate, in which he is referred to as ‘Albert Edward Jackson’, with his date of joining IHEEM being 17 February 1947. He explained: “Both my father and his brother were electrical engineers at Aston Hall. I remember going over to the workshops and the boilerhouse for a look around whenever we stayed with my grandfather. I was in my late 30s when my grandfather died, and thus got to know him quite well. He had a real passion for hospital engineering, was a strong contributor to IHEEM throughout his career, and a strong believer in its educational role and the part the Institute played in supporting the profession. As with nurses and clinicians, quite a few estates and engineering professionals have followed their forebears into the field.”

Spell down a mine

Here we moved on to talk about Jeff’s father, Peter. He explained: “Dad started off as an apprentice, like his father, with a local electrical company, but towards the end of the World War 2 he was called up as a ‘Bevin Boy’ – young men aged between 18 and 25 conscripted to work in a coalmine (in his case in Derbyshire) for two years, under a plan introduced by the Minister of Labour and National Service in the wartime Coalition government, Ernest Bevin. The Bevin Boys were chosen by lot as 10 per cent of all male conscripts aged between 18 and 25,” Jeff Jackson continued. “The country was running out of coal for the war effort, but many existing miners had joined up and were fighting overseas. Ernest Bevin therefore introduced a call-up system to the mines – each month lots were drawn, and if the last number of one’s National Service Number registration coincided with the number drawn, one was headed for the mines.

Refusal's consequences

“When this happened to my father he was perhaps 18. Most of the Bevin Boys wanted to be with their pals fighting in France or Belgium, but if they refused to go down the mine they could be imprisoned. My father spent about two years as a miner, including about a year after the war ended. Because he was already serving an apprenticeship, he was able to complete it with the mining company. He became the national treasurer for the Bevin Boys Association, and in 2008 was one of a number of Bevin Boys still living to be recognised with the award of a special medal, presented to him by then then prime Minster, Gordon Brown, at Number 10 Downing Street. This was a nice touch, because during the war the Bevin Boys got little recognition; indeed some regular miners classified them as ‘conscientious objectors’. I went to Downing Street with my brother, David, and my father to pick up the Bevin Boy Veteran Medal. It was a proud moment, and there were quite a number of his contemporaries there too. Although they were from all over the country, he knew them all. He died about a year later, aged 86. When talking about the mine he described it, unsurprisingly, as pretty hard and dirty and very physical work. He remembered one occasion when the regular miners walked out, followed shortly after by the Bevin Boys, only for the latter to be sent back down the mine, since they were told they had ‘no rights’. Nobody much recognised their important contribution, and some believed they were simply dodging the draft. That was really what the Number 10 event was about; putting that straight.”

Meeting his wife

After finishing his stint down the mine, and his apprenticeship, Peter Jackson started his hospital service as a tradesman at Aston Hall Hospital as a tradesman, aged around 20, where he soon after met Joan, a student nurse, who he subsequently married, and who now, aged 86, lives in Wales. Jeff Jackson said: “My father spent about two years at Aston Hall Hospital, gaining further electrical qualifications. Soon after this he got another job – as Assistant Hospital Engineer at Nottingham General Hospital, becoming an Associate Member of IHE, membership number 1026, in 1954. I was born the same year, while he was employed at this very large acute hospital. We again lived in the hospital house.”

The family left Nottingham when Jeff Jackson was just a few months’ old, moving to Louth in Lincolnshire, where his father took up the role of Hospital Engineer at the town’s hospital. Some four years later he was appointed Group Engineer – a promotion – at Roundway Hospital in Devizes, a large inpatient mental healthcare facility. Jeff Jackson explained: “In those days NHS engineers were encouraged to move around, gaining higher qualifications, and were often helped financially with elements such as removal costs. In the Group Engineering role he was responsible for several hospitals, with Roundway the biggest. He had a big team of hospital engineers – from the bottom upwards semi-skilled men, tradesmen, the foreman, the Assistant Hospital Engineer, the Hospital Engineer, and the Group Engineer.”

Taking the bars off the windows

Jeff Jackson recalled that the family stayed in Devizes for about nine years; when they left he was about 13. He said: “Roundway Hospital was a large mental health hospital overlooking Salisbury Plain, with a very large staff community. We again lived on the site, as did many of the other staff. One of the first jobs my father undertook was taking the bars off the windows, since attitudes towards mental health were changing. As the children of the hospital staff we were extremely protective of both the patients and the hospital’s good name. Children in school sometimes talked about the local ‘loony bin’, so there were a few fights between the hospital children and the others. I went right through all my schooling in Devizes. My father really enjoyed the job, and this was the period where I decided I wanted to follow him into the profession.”

I asked Jeff Jackson about his recollection of some of the jobs his father undertook at Roundway. He replied: “Once you became a hospital engineer you were a manager, but a technical one. You not only gave staff instructions, but needed to really understand the considerable range of engineering work, and hospitals were becoming ever more technical in terms of the equipment installed. My father had significantly expanded his knowledge and expertise – broadening it from electrical engineering to other areas. When you were a Hospital Engineer you were very often responsible for all the trades, including the building trades. While at Roundway Dad could be called at any time of day or night to deal with emergencies – from commissioning a new boilerhouse to dealing with a major fire. I found all this very exciting, and indeed it sparked my interest in a hospital engineering career. In some respects it was also all I knew. Roundway Hospital had patients of all ages, including many ex-military personnel suffering from what we now know as PTSD.”

Chartered Engineer

In the early 1960s, having gained a number of engineering qualifications through study, with as electrical bias, Peter Jackson later in his career became a Chartered Electrical Engineer through the then IEE (now the IET), and was offered, and accepted, a job as a Group Engineer – a major promotion with a considerably bigger organisation. He had become a full Member of the Institution of Hospital Engineers in January 1959. Jeff Jackson elaborated: “When we arrived in Cardiff they had just started building the University Hospital of Wales; they had just built the dental hospital and boilerhouse on a greenfield site, with this first phase also including the engineer’s bungalow. All the key engineering services were being built first, followed by the rest of the new facility. My father was very much involved in planning the hospital, and subsequently commissioning it, on behalf of the Welsh Office. I worked on the site during the summer holidays as a fitter’s mate, when I was about 15-16, and at Cardiff High School for Boys. In addition to overseeing, for the Welsh Office, the construction of such a large and high profile hospital (Europe’s largest acute hospital at the time of its completion), my father was also responsible for several other hospitals in Cardiff, including the Cardiff Royal Infirmary, Llandoch Hopsital, and Lansdown Hospital.”

Jeff Jackson reiterated that, at 16, he himself became an apprentice electrician, joining the neighbouring Health Board. He said: “They then amalgamated the two groups, my father became Group Engineer across the South Glamorgan Health Authority, and was then known as the Area Engineer. By then we had moved out of the hospital house. I was initially employed by Mid-Glamorgan Health Authority. When my father became Area Engineer he was my boss, but with a team of hundreds of engineers, estates people, and tradesmen, I rarely saw him.”

Father's 'very active' involvement

Jeff Jackson enjoyed his own apprenticeship, gaining experience as a tradesman at Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital and a number of other hospitals throughout the area. He said: “I didn’t actually move out of the family home until Nesta and I married in 1975; I was 21 and Nesta 19. With subsequent restructuring South Glamorgan Health Authority became South Glamorgan District Health Authority. In terms of continuing IHEEM connections, Dad had joined the Institute’s forerunner as an Associate Member in 1954, when he was still in his twenties and at Nottingham General, and was very active in the Institute of Hospital Engineers, as it was then. He was South Wales Branch chair and a Council member, so came up to meetings in London regularly. He also remained Honorary Treasurer into his eighties. He had 58 years in all as an IHEEM member, talked with great affection about the Institute, and was made an Honorary Fellow. He retired aged 62, and, I know was very well-thought of. A lot of his engineers turned up at his funeral in Cardiff. It was a little ironic that he ended up dying in the hospital he had commissioned.”

While had already earlier covered some of the highlights of Jeff Jackson’s own career, we revisited some of the key points. He said: “During the last two years of my secondary education I had a place at a college in Filton near Bristol to study hospital engineering, but I ‘blew’ my ‘O’ levels, not getting high enough grades, with a bad case of exam nerves.

Day release route

Jeff Jackson enjoyed his own apprenticeship, gaining experience as a tradesman at Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital and a number of other hospitals throughout the area. He said: “I didn’t actually move out of the family home until Nesta and I married in 1975; I was 21 and Nesta 19. With subsequent restructuring South Glamorgan Health Authority became South Glamorgan District Health Authority. In terms of continuing IHEEM connections, Dad had joined the Institute’s forerunner as an Associate Member in 1954, when he was still in his twenties and at Nottingham General, and was very active in the Institute of Hospital Engineers, as it was then. He was South Wales Branch chair and a Council member, so came up to meetings in London regularly. He also remained Honorary Treasurer into his eighties. He had 58 years in all as an IHEEM member, talked with great affection about the Institute, and was made an Honorary Fellow. He retired aged 62, and, I know was very well-thought of. A lot of his engineers turned up at his funeral in Cardiff. It was a little ironic that he ended up dying in the hospital he had commissioned.”

While had already earlier covered some of the highlights of Jeff Jackson’s own career, we revisited some of the key points. He said: “During the last two years of my secondary education I had a place at a college in Filton near Bristol to study hospital engineering, but I ‘blew’ my ‘O’ levels, not getting high enough grades, with a bad case of exam nerves.

Going full circle

After finishing his apprenticeship, Jeff Jackson spent a two-year spell as a shift electrician at the University Hospital of Wales. He explained: “My dad commissioned it and I helped build it, albeit as a schoolboy, and now I was working there as part of a huge team. The hospital was massive, with, for example, 52 lifts and 10 theatres. I had to deal with anything and everything. When you were on shift at night-time you were the only electrician there, although we could call out the Hospital Engineer for help. Working at the hospital was a marvellous experience.” Here Jeff Jackson recalled, and described his ‘biggest emergency’ there: “While I was on shift one day a JCB dug through land close to the Cardiff hospital’s incoming HV ring main, and broke it in half, before doing the same to the emergency back-up HV cable. I was in the basement when the power just went off, and was walking towards electrical foreman. I had a torch, and he shouted: ‘What have you done?’

Duty Electrician

“Because I was the duty electrician, I ran all the way back to the emergency generators to find out why they hadn’t started up. In fact the boilerhouse and emergency generators were working, but with no power getting down the ring main. There were people screaming everywhere, the lifts were all stuck, and we spent hours rescuing people. By then we had discovered that the JCB had ruined about 10 feet of cable. We called in the fire brigade, the army, and anyone else with a generator. There was open heart surgery in progress in one theatre, and I went up there with a long cable, connected it to the local electricity distribution board, threw the cable out of the window from five floors up, and we connected it to a fire brigade generator, repeating the process with the Special Care Baby Unit. The police meanwhile escorted a massive mobile electricity company generator onto the site, but it was only big enough to get emergency services going, so we had to pull every mains fuse on all 10 floors and all the wards, and then switch everything off in the sub-station, connect the big generators (my father led on this), and the electricians then loaded up the generator by putting the fuses back into the live circuit and checking that that we weren’t overloading. We gradually got all the wards operational again and the food going etc. In all we were about 12 hours without mains power, with, a team from the utility company repairing the mains cables in record time. “Because we didn’t know whether the cables were ‘dead’, and were without the equipment required to test high voltage, my dad jumped into the hole the JXCB had made with a spade and put it on the end of a cable to confirm that it was not ‘live’. Had it been it would have blown the spade to bits, and potentially done himself considerable harm, but I think he was pretty sure it was not. That action saved many valuable hours.”

Move to Berkshire

Having moved back to Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital as an assistant hospital engineer, and remained there for nine years, while still gaining further qualifications, Jeff Jackson next took up a new role as Senior Design Engineer with East Berkshire Health Authority at the old Windsor Hospital, the start of a lengthy spell in hospital engineering and management in the county. He explained: “The organisation later changed its name, becoming Berkshire Health Authority, different PCTs, and different Trusts. I subsequently became the Unit Works Officer for the East Berkshire Trust for People with Learning Difficulties, and, later, director of Estates and Facilities, based in Bracknell. I was instrumental, as project lead, in the re-provision of the institutes; we had three hospitals which we close and re-provided care in community homes developed throughout Berkshire. This was very rewarding work, and went on through the 1980s until around 2000, with us moving patients from 30-bedded communal wards into single-bedded rooms, with between 4-6 people per home. The hospitals were the Churchill House Hospital in Bracknell, Binfield Park Hospital, Binfield, and Clarefield Park Hospital in Maidenhead.”

Future NHS CEO

Much of Jeff Jackson’s work in Berkshire was thus in mental health. He added: “The Trust was disbanded with the formation of PCTs, when Social Services took over the running of the homes.” Here he showed me a photo of him with Nigel Crisp, by then CEO of the NHS, but earlier in his career his first unit general manager at the Churchill House Hospital, and the chair of the East Berkshire NHS Trust for People with Learning Difficulties, Richard Worrell. In another photo, Jeff Jackson is pictured receiving an engraved decanter from the Trust’s CEO, Jane Willett, both having been taken on the Trust’s disbanding in 2001. He explained: “I was recognised for my services to people with learning disabilities and my part in the re-provision process. I also became a patient advocate. With the emergence of PCTs we formed a shared service for healthcare estates, working latterly for Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which today is both a mental health and community services Trust. The shared services organisation was one of the only shared successful partnerships; we had an estates partnership over all six PCTs and the mental health Trust; it was shared facilities, finance and IT service.” Jeff Jackson was director of Estates & Facilities for the Trust when the shared service – Berkshire Shared Services – was formed. He subsequently became head of Facilities for the East Sector and associate director of Facilities, and also had a stint as director of Facilities at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.”

Developing community services

I put it to him that he had a lot of experience of mental healthcare provision. He said: “Yes, but towards the end of my career it was more around developing community services and working on planning with local authorities on developing primary care facilities in new developments.  At one time we were used as an NHS exemplar.”

Although he enjoyed this period, there were frustrations. He explained: “At the time there was much talk about so-called ‘Darzi centres’. We were developing primary care services run by GPs, but with a change in Government that all got abandoned, and there was then mounting pressure on A&E services, whereas our initiative would have taken pressure off. When many services were contracted out in the 1980s, there wasn’t the subsequent recognition of how integral Estates is to a good service. I also began seeing a lot of the experience and expertise built up in seasoned estates professionals not been passed on, which was becoming an issue both for the tradesmen and engineers at the end of my career. I think, unfortunately, that many don’t understand what hospital engineers do. Engineers are, of course, the qualified guys that manage, design, and lead the tradesmen, yet they all are grouped together as ‘engineers’.”

Offers from the private sector

Jeff Jackson’s last role before he retired was associate director responsible for Strategic Services. He said: “Overall, I had a great career, and indeed never wanted to do anything else, although I did get offers from the private sector. As to my IHEEM involvement, I was very involved and active in Wales, but a little less so in Berkshire, because there wasn’t a local branch. I have always, however, encouraged my staff to attend seminars, and am always very grateful for the technical journal. At one stage, earlier, I was Minutes Secretary for a branch. I ended up attending fewer Branch meetings later in my career, because as you get more senior you are more into strategy than technical matters, but certainly encouraged my engineer colleagues to go.”

Role of Institutes today

I asked as our conversation neared its end: “Do you think institutes like IHEEM are important today and, if so, what are their key roles?” Jeff Jackson replied: “Absolutely, and in my view their key goals are promoting the profession and the service, and educating the people who are members. I am also a member of IET. I am also delighted, as a founder member of HefmA, that IHEEM and HefmA have signed an agreement to collaborate, which can only benefit the sector. I would still very much encourage people to go into hospital engineering and estate management, although neither get enough recognition. It was a shame when they split ‘estates’ from the Department of Health hierarchy, because the discipline was no longer seen as a core to healthcare, which, of course, it is.”

I asked whether, in his senior estates role, he had felt he could ‘get the ear’ of Board members. Jeff Jackson replied: “To a certain extent, but when finances were short, ‘Estates’ suffered, so nobody would really notice – for example – that the exterior of a hospital building hadn’t been refurbished. You can go for a couple of years like that, and then, all of a sudden, the building is falling to pieces due to a lack of maintenance. It’s not cost-effective not to spend money on the estate.” I wondered whether he envied those in healthcare estate management and healthcare engineering roles today. He said: “I think the job is made more difficult by the constant political and ‘system’ changes, such as the various re-organisations that have gone over, seemingly every 3-4 years. That doesn’t fundamentally address the fact that you and I aren’t putting enough money into the service we need and want.”

Returning to his own IHEEM connections, I asked Jeff Jackson how he had felt when he heard he was to receive Honorary Fellowship. He replied: “I felt very honoured; it sort of come out of the blue. I also felt proud for my dad and grandad, because without their influence, I would not have enjoyed the career I did. I don’t think there are many existing IHEEM members or Fellows with three generations of involvement. There has been a Jackson as a member from before the start of NHS, and for almost as long as IHEEM has been in existence too.”

 Written by Jonathan Baillie, Editor of HEJ - (featured in March 2018 edition)

 

Jeff Jackson, Honorary Fellow of IHEEM.                                                                                               

  

Jeff Jackson pic 2

 

Having joined the NHS as an apprentice electrician in 1970, Jeff Jackson became a student member of the Institute of Hospital Engineers in July 1972.

Jeff Jackson Student Certificate (002)

 

Peter Jackson died in January 2012; a short obituary appeared in March 2012 HEJ.

Peter Jackson HEJ OBIT pic

 

Jeff Jackson was able to source IHEEM certificates for himself, his father and his grandfather.

Albert and Peter certificates pic 2

 

Peter Jackson (centre), flanked by sons, Jeff (right), and David, at a reception at 10 Downing Street in 2008, during which the surviving Bevin Boys received a special medal from Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in recognition of their vital service working down the mines during World War II.

Jeff  Jackson - 10 Downing St

 

A Jackson family holiday in Rhyl.  Left to right are Jeff, his brother, David, his mother, Joan, and his father, Peter, with Jeff's grandfather, Albert (Ted) - who he notes 'didn't even take his tie and jacket off on the beach' - standing behind.

 

Jackson Family Holiday