SHE was just 16, and decided to embark on a career as a nurse.

What Joan Henning didn't know at the time, was that 70 years later, she would be part of the celebrations of the National Health Service.

Now 86 and living in Romsey, Joan said that it was a prediction that somebody told her she would be a nurse, that drove her to pursue the career path, joining the NHS in its first six months after seeing an advert in the Daily Echo.

Joan has two children – both also working in the health service.

She said: "It was such an interesting time, everything was changing, but it didn't seem quite as big as it does now. There are lots of memories still coming back to me. We had our first male nurses and some from other countries. Now they are more commonplace, but we were very curious at the time.

"I was very happy running a magazine and newspaper stand down by the docks in Southampton, and I saw a piece in the Echo saying they were looking to train up nurses. When I was younger, somebody told me I was going to be a nurse, and I just decided to go for it.

"I spent time at Southampton General Hospital, which was then Southampton Borough Hospital, and loved absolutely every minute of it."

Joan lost her husband Ron two years ago, but her two children Scott, 59, and Laura, 62, both work in the NHS.

Scott is in litigation down in London, and Laura works in the New Forest.

Joan added: "Back then, we had so much respect for everybody. It didn't matter who you were or where you came from, we all treated you exactly the same and did our best.

"I know now, there are a lot of funding problems, but I think more of that respect needs to be shown. I remember seeing reports of financial changes in 1970 – so that shows you how long ago it started.

"The NHS is truly one of our crowning jewels, and we need to protect it."