We caught up with our Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Care and Lead Doctor, Emily Harrop, about her career in medicine and what influences her and inspires her at the hospice.
‘No two days are ever the same, however sad or difficult one day is, there is always an equal amount of joy on the same day. I have never known a whole shift to be a sad place. I know people find that hard to believe when you talk about a children’s hospice.’
Dr Emily has been a Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Care at Helen & Douglas House since 2010. Before coming to the hospice she undertook her specialist training at Great Ormond Street Hospital, which included a post-graduate diploma in Palliative Medicine. Prior to this, she completed her PhD in Neuroscience (Infant Pain), as well as postgraduate training in Paediatric Clinical Pharmacology.
Helen & Douglas House
Whilst training at Great Ormond Street in London, Dr Emily took a placement at Helen & Douglas House. She knew about the history of the hospice and that it was the first of its kind in the World, but was interested to find out more about hospices outside of London. After finishing her training in 2010, she accepted a role at Helen & Douglas House and came to work here as our new Consultant Paediatrician and in 2018 was just one of 14 people in the UK who hold this position.
‘I am incredibly proud to work at Helen & Douglas House. This is what I wanted to do and it still means an awful lot to me that this is the first place in the world that someone stood and said that dying children have equal rights.’
Achievements in palliative care
Dr Emily’s role at Helen & Douglas House has, with development work in medicine, inevitably evolved over time. One thing that has been learnt is that to be effective in the field of palliative care, the organisation must reach outwards, as well as providing the existing in-house care. This means that the team must increasingly make sure that a child with end-of-life needs can be looked after, wherever they are, which may mean meeting parents before a child is born (antenatal), whilst they are in hospital or even at home. As well as this, the team are working to support colleagues in other hospitals whilst continuing to look after children who come to the hospice for respite care. Over the years, Dr Emily has therefore helped to build up a network with other doctors, nurses and hospital trusts to better support the children and families who come to Helen & Douglas House.
Alongside her role, Dr Emily has also been involved in developing (NICE) guidance for end-of-life care for young people, in 2016. As a result of this the importance for children to have the managed clinical network was highlighted – it was rare enough for children to be dying but there isn’t a need for a team in every district hospital, the way you might need it for adults, however, children do have an equal right to that care, which is now being developed by services working together.
‘Working for Helen & Douglas House is more than just four walls, we need to work where the palliative care is needed.’
Dr Emily also contributes to medicine outside of the Hospice and her roles include; Honorary Consultant at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Secretary of the Association of Paediatric Palliative Medicine (APPM) executive committee and Joint Chair of the Thames Valley Paediatric Palliative care Network (TVPCN).
‘It’s a place that even now, when I go to conferences and they talk about the history of children’s palliative care, it always starts with here. It gives me a lump in my throat every time!’
As well as her important role at Helen & Douglas House, in her spare time Dr Emily enjoys camping with her family on remote Scottish islands in her Mazda Bongo, along with some running (she ran the London Marathon in 2018 and raised £6,000 for Helen & Douglas House) and also some lyenga yoga, just enough to soothe the mind!
We recognise the extraordinary work that goes into everyday things at Helen & Douglas House but we cannot continue to provide this care without the help of your donations and we would like to help to celebrate International Women’s Day by introducing you to one of the many amazing women who work and volunteer here.