Chris wins a lifetime achievement award in palliative care

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Nurse consultant Chris Ward has won a coveted lifetime achievement award for her work in palliative care.

Chris, who leads the palliative care team in Hambleton and Richmondshire from the Rutson Hospital in Northallerton, received the ‘International Journal of Palliative Nursing’ accolade for the contribution she has made over the last 22 years in her profession.

“I’m the sort of person that comes to work to do a good job – and to be recognised for doing something that I really enjoy is quite amazing – but I couldn’t have achieved what I have without a fantastic team around me,” she said.

“Probably even more important are the patients and carers who are a huge inspiration to make me want to make a difference.”

Chris became the first Macmillan clinical nurse specialist in palliative care in Hambleton and Richmondshire in 1990, setting up the hospital-based Macmillan nursing service which has since become a multi-skilled team spanning hospital and community and including nurses, doctors, dieticians and occupational therapists.

She graduated from Macmillan nurse to Macmillan palliative care team Leader in 1999, lead nurse for cancer and palliative care in 2002 and nurse consultant in adult palliative care – her current post – in the same year.

During that time she has developed university and in-house teaching programmes in palliative care and established the gold standard frameworks (GSF) in primary care locally.

She has also led the development of a local chemotherapy service, established a specialist palliative care team clinical network in North Yorkshire and co-authored the North East Cancer Network guidelines.

She holds honorary visiting lectureships with the University of York and the University of Teesside. Chris added: “I’m proudest of my work in helping cancer patients with spinal cord compression.

What started out as one incident where the outcome had not gone well spurred me on to try and make a difference, initially for local patients but hopefully now it will influence patients throughout England as I sit on the NICE steering group.

“It is one of my passions and if we can prevent a few more patients from being paralysed for the remainder of their lives, then I think that’s a huge achievement.”

Chris and her team have also made progress in helping people to die in their preferred place of care with around 80% of its patients now achieving their choice, with the support of non-specialist colleagues.

She describes her next big challenge as ensuring the palliative care that most cancer patients have learned to expect, is also extended to other end of life care patients.

“We are getting better at that but a lot of that is down to identifying the patients who are likely to be in their last six to 12 months of life – and that’s particularly challenging for people who don’t have cancer. Collaboration with GPs, district nurses and ward staff is the key.”