Former EastEnders actress Hilda Braid, who played Nana Moon in the soap, has died at the age of 78.

She died peacefully this afternoon at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton after a period of ill health, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

Her close friend Brian Ralfe was at widow Ms Braid's bedside along with her son Robin and daughter Penny when she died.

Ms Braid, who had been suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's, had moved to live with Mr Ralfe in Brighton after she left Eastenders.

As her condition deteriorated she moved to the Fairdene Lodge nursing home in Walsingham Road, Hove.

Mr Ralfe, 62, said: "She was an amazing woman. She was a diva in every sense of the word and was highly-respected in the profession. She will be sorely missed."

Mr Ralfe, who knew her for 18 years, said he was "a guardian" to her when ill-health set in.

He added: "She will be remembered for a long time to come for being a star."

Mr Ralfe said: "She did a lot of fundraising for Alzheimer's charities right up to the end. She was a big-hearted lady.

"June Brown, who plays Dot in EastEnders, would come down from London and visit Hilda. Her death has left a big hole."

Born in Northfleet, Kent, Ms Braid joined EastEnders in 2002 as Victoria "Nana" Moon, the grandmother of former Albert Square landlord Alfie Moon, played by Shane Richie.

The Rada-trained actress, whose final scenes in the soap were screened in December 2005, had a lengthy list of stage and screen credits to her name.

Her television roles included appearances in Casualty, Citizen Smith and Man About The House.

In 1985 she acted alongside Bill Treacher, who played Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, and Derek Martin who still plays Charlie Slater in the soap, in the television series The Bright Side.

Other credits included a 1997 appearance in the film 101 Dalmatians, as well as several roles in the theatre, including work with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

An EastEnders spokesman said: "We at EastEnders are very sorry to learn that Hilda has passed away.

"She was a lovely actress who brought her great humour and wit to the role of Nana Moon which earned her many fans, young and old alike.

"She was a much-loved member of our cast who appeared in more than 200 episodes of EastEnders, most notably the award-winning episode that saw her character, Nana Moon, visit her beloved late husband's grave in Normandy with grandson Alfie Moon (Shane Richie).

"Everyone at EastEnders sends deepest sympathies and condolences to her family and close friends at this sad time." Leave your tributes to Ms Braid below.