What Matters by Ken Donaldson & Alastair McAlpine

I recognise that it is a bit cheeky of me to put my name to this as I haven’t written any of it. A few months back I was scrolling through Twitter and came upon this thread that really moved me. The messages are simple yet immensely powerful. I have therefore simply taken some screenshots from Twitter and published them here. As you can see this is by a Doctor called Alastair McAlpine who is a Palliative Paediatrician in Cape Town, South Africa. Read on…..

Ken 1

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In Memory of Kate by @kendonaldson

Over the years compassion and kindness have been common themes on this blog and nobody encompassed them more than Kate Granger.


Kate was many things; Consultant geriatrician, campaigner, wife, aunty, MBE and patient. She was born and raised in Yorkshire and after qualifying in medicine from Edinburgh University returned there to complete her training in medicine for the elderly. She married the love of her life, Chris Pointon, in 2005 and then in 2011, at the age of 29, everything changed. After falling ill whilst on holiday in California she was diagnosed with a Sarcoma and given 12 – 18 months to live. Characteristically she decided to defy the odds and do something meaningful with the short time she had left.


I think it would be fair to say that prior to her illness Kate was a compassionate, caring and person centred clinician who inspired those around her. However her illness gave her a unique insight into how we deliver healthcare, in particular the ‘small things’ which we often forget – like introducing ourselves. It was during a hospital admission in 2013 that Kate noticed that none of the healthcare professionals dealing with her told her their names. The first person to do so, and show real care and compassion, was a porter. She reflected (and raged a little) about this and from that experience the #hellomynameis campaign was born.


#hellomynameis is a great example of a very simple idea which has the power to make a difference. It started on twitter and progressed to name badges, internet memes and finally circled the globe. During the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa those caring for the afflicted could write their name on a #hellomynameis sticker and attach it to their protective suit and thus patients would at least know the name of those tending them. Many politicians and celebrities have endorsed the project and it has been adopted in many countries around the world. I for one continue to wear my badge with pride.

We were very fortunate that Kate wrote for this blog in 2014 just prior to her visit to NHS D&G. Her blog can be read here.


Since Kate died I have read many obituaries and blogs which are far more thoughtful, and certainly more eloquent, than anything I can hope to write. I would like to quote a few of them here.

Ali Cracknell, a fellow Geriatrician and friend had this to say on the British Geriatrics Society blog:

“I always thought we would work together long term, and the thing that makes me really smile is Kate is with me more than any other person at work. Every encounter with a patient “hello my name is …”, every MDT, every meeting with a new member of the team and every morning I put on my “hello my name is” badge, she is with me, she is behind every little thing I do every day, that just makes such a difference. How could one person make a difference like that?  “#hello my name is”, is so much more than those 4 words, Kate knew that and felt it, and we all do, it is the person behind the words, the hierarchy that melts away, the patient:professional barrier that is lowered, the compassion and warmth of those words.”

Just Giving, the website through which Kate raised over £250,000, described 5 Lessons they learned from Kate. You can read them in depth here but the 5 lessons are:

1) We need to communicate
2) Always rebel
3) Remember romance
4) Make goals
5) It’s ok to talk about down days

A little more about number 3, Remember romance. Just giving had this to say about that…

“Kate and her husband Chris have set the bar high when it comes to romance. Throughout Kate’s journey, she never forgot to mention how important her partner is to her and how lucky she feels to have met her soulmate. After the diagnosis, the couple recreated their wedding day and renewed their vows. They even did their first ever date in Leeds all over again.
The duo did absolutely everything together, including competing in fundraising events.
Seeing Kate and Chris wine, dine and care for one another teaches us to never take our loved ones for granted, and to remember romance. The couple remained incredibly close and strong for the duration of Kate’s illness, and managed to maintain an amazing sense of humour in the darkest of
times. It reminds us all to reflect on how we treat our partners.”


The BMJ published a particularly touching obituary which can be read here.

I will end with a quote from Macleans, a Canadian weekly magazine…

“Jeremy, Jackie, Tasha, Lucy, Pam—Kate’s doctors and nurses had names in her blogs and Twitter feeds. Outliving expectations by three and a half years, she met her fundraising goal of £250,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Charity, encouraging doctors worldwide to say hello, as she herself said goodbye.
On July 23, 2016, on her 11th wedding anniversary, three days after meeting her fundraising target, Kate was lying in her hospice room, no longer able to swallow. Christopher opened a bottle of champagne and placed drops on Kate’s lips. Caretakers called in her other family members. At 3:50pm, after Adam and Christopher’s mother had arrived at her bedside, Kate stopped breathing. She was 34.”




Ken Donaldson is Deputy Medical Director (Acute Services) at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

“Dear Ward 7” by Jackie Shrimpton

Dear Ward 7,

I would like to take the opportunity, afforded to me by this blog, to thank all of you on ward 7 for the care I received during my 14 day stay in June of this year. I have worked for 40 years in the NHS and all of them spent in DGRI so the thought of being an inpatient was not a terribly nice one. However there was something so special about the way I was cared for, the personal touches, the kindness, that I felt I had to put my gratitude into writing.

I became ill some years ago although at this time I did not know the severity of my illness. I had a painful right shoulder which nothing seemed to help. This got progressively worse and then about a year ago I had a brief stay in hospital with a DVT. Subsequent investigations revealed that I had breast cancer and that it had spread to my lungs and shoulder. I was devastated. Treatment commenced with radiotherapy and medications but I knew this was all ‘Palliative’. Earlier this year I became increasingly dizzy and sick and eventually had a brain scan which revealed the cancer had spread to my brain. It was now that I was admitted to ward 7.

From the moment I was admitted to ward 7 I realised I was somewhere special. The nursing staff seemed to go out of their way to make me feel comfortable, even when they were clearly busy. I have heard it said before but it can’t be said enough: at times like this it is the small things that really matter. Combing my hair to make me look nice for my family, knowing the right thing to say to cheer me up when I was down, a simple wee word here and there made all the difference. To feel that someone genuinely wants to help, to see joy in their faces when they know they have helped, means so much. One nurse said that helping me to the shower and making me feel better in myself helped her because she was not coming to me to inject something or do something to me.

I am particularly indebted to Dr Finlay. She was obviously busy and had many patients to care for but never made me feel this way. I was made to feel important and all decisions that had to be made were made with me, not for me. She went above and beyond and I viewed her as a person rather than a doctor. I didn’t feel silly when I struggled to understand, especially when my head was in a fug due to steroids. This was such a huge thing to me at the time. Thank you Dr Finlay.

It is sometimes easy to forget how being an inpatient with an illness like mine can affect your family. My two children and other family were clearly concerned but all said that seeing me in ward 7, speaking to the nurses looking after me, filled them with confidence and made the situation easier for them. My daughter said that she was overwhelmed with gratitude as she wasn’t spending time at work worrying that I wasn’t being cared for. This meant a lot to them and a lot to me.

To all the nurses, auxiliaries, therapists, domestics, doctors, porters, pharmacists, everyone on ward 7……Thank You. I am very proud to know you and have worked in the same hospital as you.



J Shrimpton

Kate Granger by @kendonaldson

Last week on dghealth Kate Granger told the story behind her #hellomynameis campaign and on Tuesday 23rd June NHS D&G were delighted to welcome her to the Easterbrook Hall where she spoke to over 150 healthcare professionals.

Kate Granger and audience crop comp

Kate, and her husband Chris Pointon, had embarked on a two week whirlwind tour of 15 healthcare organisations around the UK to promote their campaign. We are really privileged as Dumfries was their only stop in Scotland and early on in her presentation Kate explained why. As part of her clinical attachments at medical school in Edinburgh she spent four weeks in Dumfries working with Dr Ian Hay in Elderly Care medicine. She had such a good time, and was so inspired by Ian, that she chose to specialise in Elderly Care and is now a Consultant in Yorkshire.

Kate Grnager TalkingIt is difficult to find the words to describe how humbling it was to hear Kate tell her story. She is very matter of fact about her diagnosis of terminal cancer, her journey through chemotherapy and the complications that ensued…and her prognosis. The power of a clinician seeing care “from the other side” cannot be underestimated.


On one occasion, after a change of ureteric stents, Kate became unwell with a fever and had to be admitted to hospital. A nurse took her history in the emergency department, as did a young doctor and another nurse administered antibiotics. She is unable to tell us their names as they never told her. In fact the nurse who gave the antibiotics didn’t even check her name band or allergy status before plugging her into a drip and starting them running – all the time talking to another colleague.

Kate Granger and students comp ii

However she did remember Brian’s name. Brian was the porter who took her from the ED to the ward. He introduced himself, asked her how she was, recognised she was in pain and ensured that he pushed her bed slowly over all the bumps as to minimise her discomfort. In short he was kind. He cared. Unfortunately there were other examples of poor introductions and she found herself ‘Emotionally Reflecting’ (or as Chris pointed out ‘Whinging’) about this and decided to do something – hence #hellomynameis.

This is about more than just an introduction. It’s about effective, skilled and compassionate communication. It’s about the little things, a smile, a hand on hers, the offer of a drink. It’s about true person centred care and seeing every patient as an individual, a person. ’See me’ as Kate puts it. If when you enter a patients room you lower yourself to their level and introduce yourself with a smile then your conversation will follow a different tack than if you stand towering over them eulogising to the entourage of nameless followers at the end of the bed.

Hazel Borland Kate Granger Jeff Ace and Chris Pointon crop ii

Kate is now an MBE. She has met numerous politicians (all rather keen to jump on the bandwagon!!) and celebrities and the #hellomynameis brand is now truly global. Hospitals in many countries including the USA, Australia, Italy and Sierra Leone have embraced it. The latter example is extremely powerful as, during the Ebola outbreak when clinicians were forced to be completely sealed in protective clothing, #hellomynameis stickers could be put on the visors of helmets so that patients would know the name of the doctor or nurse caring for them.

Kate’s talk was inspirational. The courage she and her husband demonstrate in touring the country telling her story time and time again is breathtaking. I know I can speak on behalf of everyone who made it to the Easterbrook by saying how proud we all were to have met Kate and Chris. While Hazel Borland and I waited for her to arrive we both confessed to some nerves at meeting this celebrity. We told Kate this and she responded “but I’m not a celebrity, I’m just a normal Yorkshire lass” and this was what came over throughout her visit. Despite everything she has been through, and all she has achieved, she remains grounded, normal and human.

Kate’s talk was recorded on video and will be available for all to watch soon.

Kate Granger and Ken


#hellomynameis….Kate by @GrangerKate

Hello type_RGB_for webHello my name is Kate. I trained at Edinburgh University and in our later clinical years we spent time in the surrounding district general hospitals. For me this meant making the journey over to Dumfries to complete my Medicine for Older People attachment. I was obviously inspired by this placement as once qualified I subsequently chose to train in that specialty.

MY imageEverything was going perfectly with my career and indeed my life. I was happily married to my husband Chris, we had a lovely home in Yorkshire and had a fantastic network of supportive family and friends. However, in summer 2011 our lives were to take an unexpected turn and change forever.

I became acutely unwell while on holiday in California. Initial investigations in hospital showed I had acute kidney injury secondary to an obstructive uropathy. The reason for the obstruction was numerous tumours throughout my abdomen and pelvis. Incurable cancer. Out of blue. Age 29.

I’ve been through a great deal of healthcare since then and as a doctor have been a keen observer of my experiences on the other side. It has made me reflect long and hard about my own clinical practice and really think about what constitutes good care. I have come to the conclusion that those factors are really very simple; quality communication; remembering the little acts of kindness can have the biggest impact; person centred healthcare with true shared decision making and always trying to see the person behind the disease or condition.

I have written, blogged, spoken about and tweeted most of my healthcare experience to date. This led almost two years ago to #hellomynameis. It was summer 2013 and I found myself unexpectedly in hospital with post-operative sepsis after a routine stent exchange. During that admission there were a fair few problems with my care, but it was the absence of something so simple, so routine that distressed me the most. An introduction.

No matter which discipline of healthcare you train in, I’m sure that introductions are covered as an important part of interacting with patients. In Medicine we even assign marks in exams for introducing yourself properly. But somewhere along the line in some places this simple courtesy has been lost.

As an avid exponent for both healthcare improvement and social media I decided that it was just not enough to simply complain. My complaint would be politely acknowledged but nothing would change. Therefore, after an inspiring conversation with my husband, in which I was plainly told to “stop whinging and do something”, we set off on the #hellomynameis journey.

On the 31st August 2013 I tweeted:

“Going to start a ‘Hello my name is…’ campaign. Have sent Chris home to design the logo.”

nursing conferenceWho could have guessed that would lead me on a path to being awarded an MBE for services to the NHS and improving care? The concept is incredibly simple; use the immense reach of social media to remind, encourage and inspire healthcare professionals about the importance of introductions and their place in the delivery of person-centred care.

Since that first tweet we have been working incredibly hard spreading this message as far and wide as possible. I have lost count of all the conferences I have spoken at and all the tweets I’ve sent. The #hellomynameis hashtag has made over 200 million impressions on Twitter. It has spread all over the world. Our latest enterprise is the #hellomynameis tour where in the space of one week in June we are planning to visit 15 healthcare organisations to talk to staff about our story and how the campaign was born. I’m happy and excited to say that Dumfries hospital will be a part of the tour.

With PM

I dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to raising the profile of patient experience in the healthcare agenda. I feel it is something that is sometimes not given the prominence it deserves. But that is changing and the patient voice is becoming louder and more powerful. Patients need to know who is delivering their healthcare, to build relationships with and be able to trust those people. #hellomynameis simply reminds us all of that.

Dr Kate Granger MBE is an Elderly Care Consultant in Yorkshire. She will visit NHS Dumfries and Galloway on June 23rd 2015

Kathleen’s Journey

How many of you have lost a loved one to cancer? How many of you have heard the term “he or she died peacefully”? Anyone who has witnessed a loved one dying in this way will appreciate that there is often nothing peaceful about it. It is heartbreaking, you are in fearful limbo, undergoing constant challenges and the result is painful and exhausting both physically and mentally. This may sound a little dramatic but it is an honest assessment and it was honesty which I felt was lacking in the story I wish to tell you.

At the beginning of 2014 Kathleen, my Mum, had a follow up Colonoscopy having previously had polyps. However on the day the procedure was performed there were complications and the test was abandoned. She was informed she would be recalled but sadly had not yet received this appointment at the beginning of 2015, when she died.

She became unwell during the summer of 2014; fatigue, loss of appetite and change in bowel habit. As her symptoms worsened she isolated herself socially. Her GP prescribed laxatives but they just made things worse and caused abdominal pain. I would say at this point she had no quality of life. She visited her GP and asked for more investigations but was informed that tests such as CT scans were expensive and she did not require one. This shocked us.

In November her abdomen became distended and the pain became worse. We were left with no option other than to take her to the Emergency Department. To my horror Mum was sent home with more laxatives but was so poorly had to return the next day. Once again they wished to discharge her but my dad stuck to his guns and insisted on admission. She had a number of tests and on the following Tuesday a CT of her abdomen. This revealed bowel and ovarian cancer. 

When Dad was asked by the Consultant to be present when he gave Mum the results he knew it was going to be bad. The Consultant informed them that the cancer had spread and that Mum only had weeks to live. There was no treatment to offer. There is no skirting around news like that. It was devastating but we were grateful that it was delivered with humanity, compassion and honesty. You don’t forget these things. As a family were reeling. The grandchildren were heartbroken and we all struggled to come to terms with the news. And then…..

A few days later another doctor came and told us the CT results were ‘inconclusive’. This news was delivered with a flippancy and obvious lack of understanding to how we all felt. We were then told that it would be over a week until we knew what the plan was as we needed to wait for a multidisciplinary meeting. This was almost too much but we clung to the hope now presented to us. Maybe….

Then we were told that there was no curative treatment but there was an option of palliative chemotherapy which MAY shrink the tumours. They offered 6 months of chemo which sounded hopeful and Mum went up to Edinburgh. However after the first course she suffered a perforated bowel, apparently as a result of the chemo, and was admitted to the palliative care unit. She was now asked what she wanted and discussion turned to the funeral!

Why was my Mothers final 6 months such a roller coaster? Why did it take so long to diagnose her? The end result would most likely have been the same but did she have to go through so much pain and confusion? I understand that an administrative error led to Mum not getting her follow up colonoscopy. This is inexcusable but when she became truly ill no-one seemed to listen to her. Listen to her symptoms, listen to her story. Had an individual healthcare professional actually listened to Mum or Dad and taken them seriously then I have no doubt she would have at least had her scan and diagnosis earlier.

And then all the confusion about “was it cancer or was it not?” It clearly was and the first Consultant we saw was clear about this and, not only did he honestly tell us the news and prognosis, he was right: she only had a few weeks left. A few weeks that could have been much kinder had she not been given false hope and a worthless (and uncomfortable) trip to Edinburgh. It was only when she got to the palliative care unit that they asked….What matters to You?

That is all it required….someone to listen and honesty.

Mum died in the palliative care unit well cared for and in dignity. The staff were honest and kind. They listened to her needs and provided them. We are very grateful to them and their professionalism.

This week’s blogger wishes to remain anonymous