She has been the smiling district nurse who has cared for thousands of patients during her 51-year career in the NHS - but on Tuesday it was Jane Trethowan's turn to be treated.

A celebration of her work took place at Helston Community Hospital in front of Jane's colleagues, friends and family members ahead of her retirement today.

Jane, who celebrates her 69th birthday this Friday, has already passed official retirement age and said: "Every day I still look forward to going to work. I've enjoyed my job, so I've been very lucky. But I'm looking forward to a new chapter now and something different."

Jane, who lives on the outskirts of Mullion, said it would be the people she gets to meet that she would miss the most.

"I've met some really interesting and inspirational people - some real characters. As regards patients, I think I've got along quite nicely with most of them.

"I think that's what I'm afraid I might miss - the banter with my colleagues and getting out and meeting people," she said.

Jane does not plan to stop for long, however. After a break over Christmas, in the New Year she plans to begin a volunteer role with a new patient transport system being set up on the Lizard Peninsula, covering The Lizard, Ruan Minor and Mullion, for which she will be driving people to medical and hospital appointments.

Jane said she had seen "enormous changes" over the last five decades - in particular regarding technology and equipment available.

She said: "Everything is now recorded on computer, whereas everything used to be recorded by hand. But it's also the equipment; even 37 years ago, when I started as a district nurse, the equipment was very limited whereas now there's very little that you can't get hold of."

Jane trained at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Group and then began work at Helston's former Meneage Hospital, where she stayed for four years.

Following the birth of her second child she worked a couple of nights at Falmouth Hospital, doing night duty on the ophthalmics and gynaecology wards.

"I could go to work at night and as long as I did two split nights, I didn't have to worry about sleeping during the day," she recalled, with her husband caring for the children overnight while she was out and then she would take over on her return, when he went to work.

She began work as a district nurse in Mullion in 1980 and over the years the team amalgamated with St Keverne, then Helston and also began covering Praze, with the team based out of Helston Community Hospital.

Jane paid tribute to "all the people that I've met who have made my job so much more enjoyable."

In particular Jane, who was unexpectedly widowed in 1990, thanked her family, including her children Steven and Kathryn and their partners, and her grandchildren Megan, Amelia, Louis and Winnie, for their support and cooperation, along with her wide circle of friends.

"I've been very lucky," she said.