Natalie Silvey, National Medical Director’s Fellow at NHS England, pays tribute to her friend and colleague Dr Kate Granger who passed away on Saturday 23 July.
“Hello my name is Natalie”. Every time I say that – to a patient, a relative or a colleague I think of Kate Granger. I had known Kate for years before I first met her at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in 2014 having chatted to her on Twitter. We kept missing each other in the hustle and bustle of the conference until we finally managed to meet and I got to have a hug with this incredible Yorkshire lass who already felt like a friend.
Kate described herself in her Twitter profile as wife, daughter, sister, aunty, friend, geriatrician, patient and author. But this description can never do her justice. She was also an inspiration.
Kate was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in August 2011. From diagnosis she knew it was incurable. She used her personal experience as an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of other patients.
Kate’s campaign – “Hello my name is…” – drew on her own encounters as a patient. In August 2013 she was admitted to hospital and she noticed that many of the staff looking after her didn’t introduce themselves before delivering care. Encouraged by her husband Chris to “stop whinging and do something” after discussing it with him, she did exactly this.
And “Hello my name is…” was born. The whole campaign focuses on something so simple but so vital – making sure that everyone – as a minimum – introduces himself or herself before each and every care interaction. It was a valuable reminder to staff to go back to basics, building trust and reaffirming a vital human connection with patients as people.
Kate toured the country visiting hospitals, healthcare professionals and others in her drive to improve care and make care truly patient centred. The campaign has spread globally all because of Kate and Chris, their focus and hard work.
The campaign also led directly to the Kate Granger Compassionate Care Awards, which will be presented for the third time in September at the Health and Innovation Expo 2016 in Manchester. These are given to outstanding individuals, organisations and teams who put compassion right and the heart of everything they do.
Over the past five years Kate and Chris ticked off as many items on her bucket list as possible. She travelled widely, wrote books about her experiences, baked huge numbers of cakes for cake sales, played Mozart’s flute concerto in G major in front of an audience, completed a tandem skydive from 10,000 feet despite being terrified of heights and ran the Leeds 10k run.
She completed her training and became a consultant in geriatric medicine. She shared with us all her experiences of cancer treatment, while rejoicing in the good things in life. She raised more than £250,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Centre and created a global movement to improve patient care through those four simple words – “Hello my name is…”.
All of this was done whilst Kate underwent treatment for her cancer. She worked tirelessly to spread her message far and wide and inspired hundreds of thousands of people. She will continue to.
I was there in the audience during her awards ceremony, when everyone watching the awards stood up with “Hello my name is” signs and saw the sheer delight on her face. Over the past couple of years I have spent some amazing time with Kate, talking at a conference with her, going for afternoon tea with a group of fellow lady doctors and even helping her to choose this year’s winners of the Kate Granger Compassionate Care Awards. I got to know this determined, intelligent, funny, brilliant woman and was lucky enough to call her my friend.
Comments on her donations page sum up the impact she has had, and will continue to have, on patient care: “Thanks Kate – you help us all realise you just have to do something to make a difference”, “You are an inspiration Kate, you have changed the face of patient experience in the NHS forever”, “thanks for everything you have done for the NHS”.