Kusum Bhatt

Kusum was born in India in 1936 and wanted to work in a profession, either law or medicine. Her father had been ill for some time, and died in 1946. Kusum visited him in hospital many times during his illness. Her family was quite progressive with regard to girls’ and boys’ education and Kusum’s sister (who was over a decade older) was already studying for a teaching degree, so Kusum had early exposure to both higher education and medicine. She had an arranged marriage at 18 but her husband’s family were quite conservative, not seeing the importance of Kusum’s continued education. Her husband went to the UK in 1958 as a qualified glass technologist and she followed him in 1960 with their son. The family settled in Sunderland where her husband worked in the Pyrex glass factory. While her husband was in England, Kusum finished her psychology degree in India. She then needed to get an honours degree in England as she couldn’t find work with her Indian degree. However, not being able to get the funding needed to continue, she answered a Home Office advertisement for a 10-month childcare social worker course at Newcastle University. She took two years out to have her second child, but also because her son’s disability was diagnosed at around the same time. She then returned to complete her course and continue working as a social worker in Newcastle General Hospital. Kusum worked there for 26 years, then took early retirement – she was diagnosed with ME and needed rest. She then worked as a primary care counsellor until 2003 when she retired from all work.

Bedside manners

Back in those times, a lot of doctors made a hash of things. In those times a lot of surgeons that did the operations, they told the patient, ‘oh I’ve removed the cancer, and you’re alright’. The good thing is now the training of the doctors and the nurses has changed. The junior staff are very sensitive to the needs of the family and how to deal with them. They know how to relate to people. Not in the old days – then the main part of telling the patient or the relatives what they’ve got stood on the senior surgeon, or senior doctor. The senior doctor did not like that role at all. If they did, they made a hash of it!

Kusum Bhatt

India