Born November 20, 1919;

Died October 3, 2006.

LUCILLA Andrews, described by The Guardian as "the brand leader of hospital fiction", has died just a few weeks after the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) honoured her with a lifetime achievement award at a luncheon held at the Scottish Parliament.

Andrews, a founder member of the RNA, was born in Suez and grew up bilingual in Spanish and English, since her mother was Spanish. Her maternal grandfather was a Spanish nobleman who had trained as a doctor.

Andrews followed in his footsteps, and worked as a forces nurse from 1937 to 1939, joined the British Red Cross in 1940 and later qualified as a Nightingale nurse at St Thomas's Hospital, London, where she worked throughout the war. She had always wanted to be a writer and, once, when a bomb landed close to the nurses' hostel, she dived out with her notebooks, prepared to carry out some immediate hands-on research.

It was at St Thomas's, too, that she met her husband, Dr James Crichton. Weeks after her honeymoon, Andrews's professional skills told her that her young husband was already incurably ill - but with formidable courage she devoted herself to caring for him and their only child, Veronica, usually known as Vee.

Andrews knew, she says, from the time Vee was five months old, that she would be her daughter's only parent, so she planned her novel writing as a business. To supplement her income she wrote short stories for women's magazines and quickly earned more than she was earning as a nurse.

Her first book, The Print Petticoat, was published in 1954, the same year her husband died. Her last book, The Sinister Side, came out in 1996. Her wartime experience illuminates her work. A Hospital Summer (1958), a story set in the Kent countryside after a London teaching hospital has been bombed, is spiced with the unmistakable flavour of real life. Her autobiography, No Time For Love, published first in 1977 and subsequently reprinted several times, is recommended companion reading for Ian McEwan's Atonement.

Her output, during a career of almost five decades, was prolific, and copies of her books are still much sought after on the internet, changing hands for prices that would have surprised the author.

Medicine is the background for all her romantic and humorous novels, which are full of an urgent vitality that earned her a worldwide readership and to which today's medical romance writers are still indebted.

So, too, are many patients in British hospitals. Andrews's postbag was full of letters saying: "I became a nurse because of your books and they certainly influenced the way I treated my patients."

Her novels are redolent of the atmosphere of the time in which they were set, and have a wealth of authentic detail. Andrews, like her daughter, liked people and was a good listener. Her novels do not have characters but are about "real" people in challenging situations. The lucky fewwho knew both Andrews and Vee say they were extraordinary characters, lively, perceptive, intelligent and possessed of an amazing power of descriptive language, used by Vee in teaching politicians to communicate and by Andrews in her timeless stories.

Like her daughter, Andrews had the ability to make and keep friends of all ages.

She wrote under three names - her own, Diana Gordon and Joanna Marcus - but did not write only fiction. In 1959 she wrote a biography, The Life of the Right Reverend Ronald Knox: Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, And Pronotary Apostolic to His Holiness Pope Pius XII, and in 1970, perhaps conscious of her roots, she compiled a first-year Spanish dictionary which was published by Harrap.

In 1969, Andrews moved to Edinburgh and lived there, very happily, for the rest of her life.

She is survived by her brother, John Andrews, and her nephew, Dr Neil Andrews of Toronto, Canada. Her daughter, Veronica Crichton, the journalist and Labour party activist, died in 2002.