Dame Catherine Hall, DBE, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing from 1957-82; born December 19, 1922, died August 26.

DAME Catherine was one of the doyenne of the nursing profession who was both general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing from 1957 to 1982, and Chairman of the United Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting from 1980 to 1985. Under her leadership, the Royal College of Nursing registered as a trade union, becoming the largest trade union outside of the TUC.

Her career was dominated by a desire to see nurses treated fairly and paid a just wage. ``It is immoral to use the job satisfaction which nurses derive as an excuse for getting their services on the cheap,'' she said.

Hall remained personally opposed to industrial action, but inevitably the demand for improvements in pay and conditions brought nursing into conflict with successive governments. During the winter of discontent (1978-79) she was able to enlist public support such that the then social services secretary, David Ennals, was forced to increase substantially his pay offer to nurses. The politics of the times allowing nurses to succeed where other workers failed.

Under her tenure, the Royal College of Nursing extended its membership to include men (1960), enrolled nurses (1969), and student nurses (1970). She was committed to establishing nurses as a powerful professional group, and sought to challenge existing apprenticeship training by recommending to the Platt Commission (1964) that nurses in training be granted student status, and that schools of nursing should be independent of hospitals.

Catherine Mary Hall was educated at Hunmanby School for Girls at Filey, Yorkshire. It was thought she might enter medicine, but with the outbreak of war, she chose to enter nursing.

She was considered to be an exceptional student at Leeds General Hospital, where she undertook her nursing training. A travelling fellowship to Canada and the United States provided her with the opportunity to study nursing education and administration. Following a year of study at the Royal College of Nursing, she was appointed as assistant matron at the Middlesex Hospital, London (1954-56). Encouraged by her friends and colleagues, Hall applied for the general secretaryship of the RCN.

It was through this position that she came to exert great influence on nursing for the next 30 years. Hall represented UK nursing on the International Council of Nurses and on the Expert Panel of the World Health Organisation. She also served as a member of the General Medical Council between 1979-89. Hall was appointed CBE In 1967, and on her retirement from the RCN was awarded the DBE.

She was a committed Christian, and her retirement allowed her to become more involved with diocesan work. She was unmarried.

Hall worked all her life to raise the status of nursing and to establish its centrality in the delivery of healthcare. She laid the foundations for current nursing education, and while she may have wished to have achieved more for nursing in terms of salary, she undoubtedly altered the face of the profession.

n Appreciation by Lorraine N Smith, Professor of Nursing, University of Glasgow.