Lives of the fellows

Fiona Margaret Hicks

b.24 September 1962 d.23 October 2015
BMedSci Nottingham(1984) BM BS(1986) MRCP UK(1989) FRCP(2000)

Fiona Hicks was a consultant and senior clinical lecturer in palliative medicine for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. She decided to be a doctor at a very early age and pursued her ambition with steady determination. Her combination of empathy, acuity of thought and judgement, warmth and humour made her an excellent clinician and teacher. She liked a good project and chose these well, seizing opportunities that were both challenging and ‘doable’. She liked to stretch her boundaries and was rarely bored.

Fiona was born in Bromley, Kent, and attended James Allen’s Girls’ School, Dulwich. Her father, George Albert Hicks, was a civil servant; her mother, Maureen Grace Hicks, was a housewife. Following graduation from Nottingham University Medical School in 1986 and house jobs, she spent two years in Sheffield as a medical senior house officer and then two years in Manchester as a trainee in oncology. In 1991 Fiona moved to Leeds and became the second ever trainee in palliative medicine on the Yorkshire rotation. In 1996 she was appointed as a consultant and senior lecturer in palliative medicine at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and medical officer in paediatric palliative care at Martin House Children’s Hospice in Wetherby.

The specialty of palliative medicine was young and there was much to do. Fiona led curriculum development and higher specialist training in palliative medicine nationally via both the Association for Palliative Medicine and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). She was a long-standing member of the specialty advisory committee in palliative medicine, working as secretary and then chair from 2007 until 2013. During this time Fiona co-led the creation of the RCP specialty certificate examination in palliative medicine and served on the standard setting group, where she was known for the by-line ‘they really ought to know this’. Other work for the Royal College of Physicians included membership of the palliative medicine joint specialties committee (2002 to 2013); contributing to a working party on palliative care services; guest editing the continuing medical education section on palliative medicine for the RCP journal Clinical Medicine; and leading a working party on Improving end-of-life-care: professional development for physicians (London, Royal College of Physicians, 2012). Her efforts and achievements were recognised by the president’s award of certificate of merit.

Fiona was a passionate teacher and trainer, who shaped the careers of a generation of trainees. She was an aspirational role model, being sensible, extremely kind, measured, fair and knowledgeable. From 2006 to 2009 Fiona was an external examiner for the certificate and diploma in palliative medicine, University of Wales and a member of the editorial board for the journal CME Bulletin in Palliative Medicine from 2002. In 2010, Fiona secured significant regional investment for a ‘senior clinicians end of life care development programme’ in two acute trusts (subsequently rolled out to two more). This programme, which Fiona co-designed, empowered senior doctors in a number of disciplines to examine and develop their own clinical practice through group action learning and embodied Fiona’s values and considerable experience in how to effect change.

She was hugely influential in the development of palliative care services across Leeds, Yorkshire and the Humber, and nationally. In 2006 she invited Marie Curie to Leeds to implement the delivering choice programme, and collaborated with commissioners and all palliative care providers in the city to ensure integrated services. Dedicated palliative care ambulances, emblazoned distinctively with daffodils, are part of her enduring legacy.

In 2008, Fiona was awarded a fellowship by the British Association of Medical Managers in recognition of her sustained achievements in management and leadership locally and nationally. She extended her strategic reach in 2009 when she was appointed as the Yorkshire and the Humber Strategic Health Authority senior clinical lead for the End of Life Care Intelligence Network. In the same year she became a trustee to Martin House Children’s Hospice, Wetherby.

Fiona’s greatest professional impact was on her patients and clinical team. Improving patient care and experience were at the heart of everything she did. With colleagues, Fiona built and led the Leeds Teaching Hospitals palliative care team, which provides an advisory service across one of the largest acute trusts in the country. Fiona was a highly respected and much-loved member of the team, valued as much for her gentle humour, love of a good story and baking abilities as for her insight, clinical skill, wisdom and ‘door always open’ approachability. She had a great capacity for happiness and contentment, with a ready smile for all. She managed to challenge others whilst supporting them in equal measure.

Fiona combined deeply fulfilling home and work lives with remarkable skill and aplomb; she was apparently unflappable and a near miraculous time-keeper. She was immensely proud of her three children, Naomi, Jonathan and Edward, and relished the fun and happiness of her loving home. She learned the saxophone when her children took up musical instruments, and carried on enjoying this for years afterwards. She was an active member of her church and organised Fairtrade there and at work for many years. A huge source of pleasure was sharing her holiday home in the Dales with family and friends. Within her book club she gained a reputation for being the ‘girly swot’ who always did her homework. Fiona also developed her gardening skills, and all those around her benefited from various gluts of fruit and vegetables.

Fiona received a diagnosis of breast cancer in late summer 2012, shortly before her 50th birthday. For three years, she faced the illness and treatment with acceptance and the quiet determination for which she was so well known. She did her very best to keep life as normal as possible for as long as possible, relishing the pleasures of the company of family and friends, and seeing work projects through to a ‘place of safety’. She spent most of her last months at home with her family, and died with her husband David (Barrow) by her side, very much herself to the end.

Suzanne Kite

[BMJ 2016 352 1441 – accessed 26 April 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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