AVRIL Devaney MBE, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's director of mental health, has retired after 36 years in nursing.

The country's longest serving mental health nursing director, Avril began training as a registered mental health nurse in 1983.

She has decided to call it a day after 17 years as the trust's director of Nursing, Therapies and Patient Partnership.

She was inspired by a family member with learning disabilities.

She first received national recognition for her work in 1999 with The Queen's Nursing Institute Award for Innovation after establishing a mental health nursing service in police custody suites.

After becoming CWP's director of Nursing, Therapies and Patient Partnership in 2002, Avril was recognised for her work in tackling health inequalities, including the harm to people with mental health conditions caused by smoking.

She led work for CWP to become the first trust to implement the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Smoke Free guidance in 2014.

Having pioneered the Trust's challenging stigma campaign in 2004, Avril is passionate about person-centred care and helping people to be the best they can be whatever their circumstances.

She has been CWP's link with mental health services at Kisiizi Hospital in Uganda since 2010 and is a founder of the Jamie Devaney Memorial Fund to support mental health services in Uganda and create a lasting legacy for son Jamie, who died aged four during a family holiday and fundraising trip there.

In 2014 Avril received an honorary MA from the University of Chester in recognition of her outstanding contribution to healthcare and in 2015 was recognised as a Nursing Times Leader.

In 2016 she was awarded with an MBE for "services to Nursing of People with Mental Health Problems" and was awarded the chief nursing officer's Gold Award for life long contribution to nursing in April.

Retiring after 36 years as a nurse, Avril said: "I have enjoyed a long and fulfilling career in the NHS and will always be grateful for the opportunities I have had to make a difference.

"I have met many amazing people over the years who have inspired me to do all I can to improve support for people to live full lives whatever their circumstances and I will continue to do this in my next chapter.

"I would like to thank everyone for their good wishes as I retire; they mean a lot.

"It has been a pleasure to work for an organisation that really cares."

Chief nursing officer for England Ruth May said: "Avril has had an astonishing 36 years in nursing, something I formally recognised earlier this year with a Gold CNO award, for sustained high performance and commitment throughout her career.

"Colleagues who make a lifetime contribution, like Avril, are a reminder to us all of how rewarding a career in nursing and midwifery can be.

"They also make me extremely proud to be part of this profession.

"I wish her warmest of thanks and the very best of luck in all that comes next."

CWP Chief Executive Sheena Cumiskey said: "Avril has had a stellar career.

"She has achieved so much, and most importantly, has always given of her best to improve the lives of the people we serve.

"She is leaving a lasting legacy, and I know I'm speaking on behalf of everyone at CWP when I say a huge thank you, Avril."

Avril has been succeeded as director of nursing, therapies and Patient Partnership at CWP by Gary Flockhart – previously the CWP's associate director of nursing and therapies.