An unyielding desire to ensure patients facing the end of life should be given every opportunity to spend that time “living and not dying” has earned Dr Karen Groves an honorary award from Edge Hill University.

Described by many as an extraordinary woman, the Medical Director of Queenscourt Hospice in Southport has a real passion to make thing better for her patients and their families.

Her honorary, which was given in light of her compassion and links with Edge Hill, was conferred in a ceremony on the Ormskirk campus on 17th July. Listen to her interview here.

Speaking after her ceremony, she said: “I am honoured to receive this award and proud of our many links with Edge Hill University. These include healthcare student placements at Queenscourt, myself and colleagues studying clinical education with Cathy Sherratt and her team, developing an online version of our course to raise spiritual awareness in healthcare staff with Brian Smith and the Solstice Centre, evaluating the Queenscourt at Home service with Professor Barbara Jack and working with her to develop research capacity amongst the staff at Queenscourt. ”

Jacqui Howe, the University’s Head of Careers and a supporter of Queenscourt Hospice, describes Dr Groves as “passionate about health professionals working together across boundaries for the good of the patient. Her patients regularly cite her compassion, her determination to find a solution to a particular problem and her amazing insight into their difficulties. Colleagues speak of her total commitment and it is this love of her patients that is so evident to their families – and is perhaps part of the reason why the hospice has hundreds of committed supporters and volunteers each year.”

Talking about her work, Karen said: “I have been very fortunate to have been able to follow a career I believe in, and have opportunities to share this with others. Queenscourt has an important role in the community to ensure that health professionals, patients, their families and the public understand the importance of living life to the full to its end. We have a responsibility to show patients and families how to live with what cannot be changed, to provide the very best care with compassion and skill, and educate others to be able to do the same. We have only one opportunity to get it right, there is no rehearsal!”

Karen Groves was born and educated in Liverpool, qualifying as a medical doctor from Liverpool University in 1979.  After graduation and during her pre-registration year, Dr Groves first identified the need for better end of life care after experiencing two particularly traumatic deaths in young women. She embarked on the GP vocational training scheme, working for over 12 years in general practice in the Southport area.

It was determination to ease the pain of patients that drove her, and her nurse sister Sarah, to seek advice from Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement, visiting her in London to find out what could be done. On their return they inspired a small group of people to begin fundraising. She herself was a volunteer doctor at the hospice, whilst working full time as a GP, for five years, until she was appointed as the Medical Officer there in 1995. In 1992, Queenscourt Hospice became famous throughout the world – as Princess Diana shed tears at the official opening – and by 1996 Dr Groves had become the first local consultant in Palliative Medicine.

With her passion for learning and teaching, and with the support of the visionary trustees of Queenscourt, the Terence Burgess Education Centre was opened next door to the hospice in 2001 to spread the word and share the knowledge of palliative medicine, not just with other health professionals, but also with teachers, clergy, nursing home and catering staff and all who are involved in the many different aspects of palliative care and bereavement. What Queenscourt has learned over its 21 years, has been disseminated in posters at international conferences all over the world.