Joe Collett was a retired soldier, who had outlived his wife and children and lived alone in the tenements of Poplar. He appeared in Series One, Episode Three. He was portrayed by Roy Hudd.
Jenny Lee was sent to care for Mr. Collett's leg ulcers, in part caused by his time serving as a soldier. Initially, Jenny was repulsed by the state of his flat and appalled by the insects she encountered there, which were common to the tenements. However, over time she began to love and respect the old soldier, and to visit him to hear his stories after her shift was over. With regular treatment, his leg ulcers showed much sign of improvement. He told her that he viewed his simple life as one of luxury, having been raised extremely poor in a time when the National Health Service did not exist and the only social care available was the workhouse.
As part of the slum clearance in Poplar, the tenements were condemned and the residents forced to move elsewhere. As an old man with limited sight who was unlikely to be able to care for himself in a new environment, Joe was sent to a nursing home. The nursing home was, in fact, the old workhouse building and the staff were too few to attend to the needs of the old men, who had no form of entertainment provided and little healthcare.
Neglect meant that Joe's leg ulcers supparated and became gangrenous. Jenny discovered this on a visit to Joe, and raised the alarm. However, transfer to hospital came too late and Joe had to undergo a double amputation to his legs. He died shortly afterwards. Jenny was the only person present at his funeral.
The experience was harrowing to Jenny but instrumental in expanding her views and perceptions and therefore improving her nursing care.