When Kate Granger passed away on 23 July 2016, the day of her 11th wedding anniversary, she left a legacy of a more caring and compassionate healthcare system.
It was a legacy achieved through adversity.
Kate was herself a doctor – a registrar in the NHS – when, during a three-week Californian holiday in 2011 with her husband, Chris Pointon, she was rushed to hospital with severe kidney pain.
After a life-saving operation, Kate and Chris flew home to the UK, where Kate spent months in hospital undergoing tests before she was finally diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumour (DSRCT), a rare form of abdominal cancer.
As a clinician, Kate held four core values: good communication; ‘the little things’, such as sitting down to speak to a patient instead of looming over them; person-centred care; and seeing the patient as a person, not as a disease or condition. All of these values were reinforced by experiences she had as a patient, but one thing in particular kept bothering her: some of the many healthcare staff who treated her did not introduce themselves.
“Saying ‘Hello, my name is …’ is the first step towards building a therapeutic relationship. It breaks down the barriers of power between a patient and a healthcare professional, recognises the patient as an individual, and helps to put people at ease,” says Chris.
Chris challenged Kate to do something about the problem and, in August 2013, the #hellomynameis campaign was launched with a tweet to Kate’s 24,000 Twitter followers. The couple used social media to promote the campaign and share examples of good and bad practice happening in healthcare. The campaign took on a life beyond what they had expected as other people from around the world shared their own stories.
“In a way, it was sad that the campaign gathered such momentum, because it showed that many healthcare professionals weren’t introducing themselves,” says Chris.
To grow the campaign and reach a broader audience, the couple began to promote #hellomynameis in other ways. Kate wrote blogs and articles for the media and medical journals, including the BMJ; featured on radio and television; spoke at conferences and events; and published a book, The Other Side, about her experiences as a patient. She and Chris also created a website, www.hellomynameis.org.uk, to keep people informed about the latest news, events and media coverage related to the campaign; had lanyards, posters and badges made to reinforce the campaign’s message in hospitals; and shared ‘selfies’ on social media of students and healthcare leaders pledging their support for the campaign.
“We started getting loads of pictures sent to us from hospitals which were joining the campaign. It was picked up by other organisations too, such as businesses and the UK police,” says Chris.
However, it was in April 2014 when Kate knew the campaign was really making a difference. She was invited to speak and present a poster at the International Forum on Quality & Safety in Healthcare, instilling her ideas in thought-leaders such as Don Berwick, president emeritus and senior fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Closer to home, Kate’s own hospital, The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, became the campaign’s flagship trust. Not wishing to be known as the hospital where a negative experience had inspired #hellomynameis, the trust gave all staff name badges and the CEO began speaking to new staff at each monthly induction about Kate and the campaign.
As the campaign built momentum, Kate and Chris were invited to meet with politicians such as British Prime Minister David Cameron about her work, and celebrities such as Sir Richard Branson and Kylie Minogue were pictured holding name boards.
In addition, the NHS launched the Kate Granger Awards for Compassionate Care to recognise examples of care that embraced Kate’s core values, and a new suite at Watford Hospital was named The Granger Suite in Kate’s honour.
In February 2015, Chris and Kate worked with the organisation Listening into Action to contact the CEO of every NHS Trust in the UK, asking them to support a re-launch of #hellomynameis on one day across the whole NHS. On that day, #hellomynameis reached 400,000 NHS employees and trended on social media all day.
By this time, Kate was frequently being asked to speak to organisations across the UK. To reduce the travel demands this placed on her, Chris and Kate arranged a tour of the UK in June 2015 to visit as many NHS trusts and reach as many people as they could in one week. In response to a single tweet, within an hour Kate received 60 invitations to speak to different trusts.
The final challenge Kate set for the couple was to raise £250,000 for charity and to sign up David Cameron’s successor, Teresa May, to the campaign. She and Chris achieved both of these aims.
When Kate’s death was announced, she was acknowledged in mainstream and social media around the world as someone who had made a difference. By then, the campaign had made 1.7 billion Twitter impressions and was being widely used every day to deliver more compassionate healthcare in over 20 countries.
“Kate’s legacy is one of better healthcare for other people,” says Chris.
Chris continues the work the couple started. He is currently on a global tour which will take the campaign to over 50 hospitals around the world. He has also commissioned a play about Kate’s life, written a book and produced a song, and has pledged to raise half a million pounds for St Gemma’s Hospice and the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal.
Chris Pointon visited Counties Manukau Health on 25 September 2017, as part of his global tour.