Kate GrangerBMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4144 (Published 26 July 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4144
Promoting compassionate care was vital to Kate Granger, award winning geriatric consultant, who used her experience as a cancer patient to ensure that the NHS kept compassion at its core.
Originally from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, Kate showed an early interest in older people’s care, as shown by her decision to help out at local care home for older people when she was still at school.
Kate trained at the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated with honours in 2005 before returning to Yorkshire to get married to the love of her life, Chris Pointon, and start working—all in the same year.
Her first job after qualifying was at Dewsbury and District Hospital, part of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. She passed her membership examination for the Royal College of Physicians in 2008, and her work interests included medical education, continence, delirium, palliative care in the acute hospital setting, and the interface between geriatric medicine and surgery.
In 2011, at the age of 29, Kate was diagnosed with a desmoplastic small round cell tumour (DSRCT)—a rare aggressive form of sarcoma—and was given just six months to live. Instead of giving up, she decided to get busy doing as much as possible that would be useful.
During a hospital stay in 2013, Kate noticed that many of the staff looking after her did not introduce themselves before delivering her care. An example was a junior doctor, who, having failed to introduce himself, looked away and told her “your cancer has spread” before leaving quickly—something that she felt left her psychologically scarred.
This led her to launch the “Hello, my name is . . .” campaign, primarily using social media initially, to encourage and remind healthcare staff about the importance of introductions in healthcare.
Simple, but effective, the campaign has now got the backing of more than 400 000 doctors, nurses, therapists, and porters across 90 NHS organisations and has been adopted in around 100 countries.
Her husband, Chris, says: “It’s grown and grown and is now global. When we went out on tour last year in the UK to promote this, we got to about half a million people who work in trusts who have signed up to it.
“Also it’s now being used in Australia as part of the country’s national healthcare training, and it’s used in New Zealand and across America and Canada. It’s an amazing legacy to have because she has made a difference to the world.”
The campaign also has the backing of the former prime minister, David Cameron, and many celebrities, while more recently, the new prime minister, Theresa May, wrote personally to Kate to thank her for her contributions to the NHS.
In addition to the campaign, Kate also wrote and published two books about her situation (http://theothersidestory.co.uk/thebrightside), which have helped to raise more than £250 000 for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre—a target that was reached only a week before her death.
Kate spent most of her working life at the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Jules Preston, the trust’s chairman, describes Kate as “inspiring and dedicated,” saying: “Her passion to promote more compassionate care led to her launching the #hellomynameis campaign. Kate was a valued and courageous colleague whose legacy will last forever.”
Kate also worked at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, where she was treated as a patient. Julian Hartley, the trust’s chief executive, says: “Kate has been an inspiration to so many people during her all too short life and has achieved so much. She was an outstanding doctor here in Leeds, a committed fundraiser for our Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal, and a true champion for patients everywhere.
“I spent a great deal of time with Kate while promoting #hellomynameis at Leeds and was hugely impressed by her tireless commitment to making things better.”
One of Kate’s friends—Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England—says: “Her honesty, courage, grace, and determination to share her experiences of living with a terminal illness and dying have enabled many to learn and speak openly about death and, in particular, about the need to improve communication and compassionate care.”
Awards and honours
Her achievements have also been recognised by Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, who says: “Kate was a truly remarkable and inspirational individual who openly shared her daily battles with cancer, providing a source of strength and inspiration to countless people. The #hellomynameis campaign has been adopted across the country, making a huge difference to patients. It will be a profound legacy of her work.”
In 2014 NHS England created the Kate Granger Awards for Compassionate Care—annual awards in honour of Kate to “recognise an individual, team, or organisation that has made a positive difference to patient care.”
Kate received an MBE in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to the NHS and improving care in recognition of her campaign and was thrilled to have the medal awarded by Prince Charles.
Earlier this year, Kate was awarded the Jane Tomlinson Award for Courage and was named overall Yorkshire Woman of Achievement at a celebratory lunch event held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
She also received a Special Achievement Award at the BMJ Awards 2016.
Knowing of her terminal illness made Kate all the more determined to squeeze in as much as possible, and she created a bucket list of personal ambitions. These included skydiving; getting a tattoo; qualifying as a consultant gerontologist; meeting the Queen; going on the Orient Express; renewing her wedding vows; afternoon tea at the Savoy; dinner at Claridge’s; and trips to Paris, Edinburgh, and the east coast of the US. All were achieved. She was also a keen flautist and played in the Wakefield Orchestral Wind Band.
Her husband Chris says: “Compassionate is the best word to describe her. She said you should always see the patient as though he or she were one of your relatives because then you would take extra care with them and go above and beyond what a person would normally expect.”
Kate took notice of the little things at work, he adds, such as making sure she never stood over somebody at the side of the hospital bed, kneeling down or getting a chair instead so that she was at the same eye level as the patient, to make the hospital experience less daunting.
“She was given only six months to live five years ago, and look at what she did in those five years,” he says. “You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt in life, and Kate has done some amazing things and achieved great things in healthcare.”
Kate died at St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds. She leaves her husband, Chris; her parents; and her brother and his family.
Consultant in geriatric medicine (b 1981; q Edinburgh 2005; MRCP), died from desmoplastic small round cell tumour on 23 July 2016.