Pioneering doctor and volunteer retires after years of hospice work

A pioneer at St Wilfrid's Hospice is finally retiring after many years of service, first as a doctor and then a volunteer.

Roy Walford was the second doctor at St Wilfrids Hospice and, after retirement, became a keen volunteer
Roy Walford was the second doctor at St Wilfrids Hospice and, after retirement, became a keen volunteer

Dr Roy Walford, 80, has led an extraordinary life as both a doctor and ordained Anglican priest, devoting his time to patients and their families at home and abroad, as well as the Chichester hospice.

He was the hospice’s second doctor, joining in 1987. Born and brought up in Birmingham, he trained at Birmingham Medical School and began his career in 1958 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and Worcester Royal Infirmary.

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Roy credits his interest in medicine to being one of the first patients of the newly-formed NHS when he became ill with rheumatic fever for a prolonged period of time at the age of 13.

During his early years as a doctor, he realised the medical profession focused on the disease, rather than the patient as a person and their individual needs.

He was inspired to explore the spiritual as well as the medical needs of the patient and in 1962 trained in the Christian ministry as well as continuing to practise medicine at hospitals in Birmingham.

There followed a placement as pathologist at United Christian Hospital, Lahore, followed by being haematologist to mission hospitals throughout Pakistan.

Returning to Birmingham, Roy was greatly influenced by Dame Cicely Sanders at a public meeting in Birmingham at the inauguration of St Mary’s Hospice, Selly Oak, Birmingham, while holding a position as consultant at Walsall Healthcare’s hospitals.

In 1981, Roy was ordained as an Anglican priest, becoming chaplain in Walsall’s Manor Hospital. His involvement with the hospice movement grew and he was part of the planning for St Giles Hospice, near Lichfield, and St Mary’s, near Birmingham, in partnership with Walsall Healthcare.

In 1985, he moved to Acorn Christian Healing Trust in Bordon, Hampshire, experiencing the integration of medical and spiritual therapies in the care of the sick.

From 1987 to 2000, Roy was a physician at St Wilfrid’s, which allowed him to put all he had learned from a medical and spiritual point of view into practice. However, he also found time to contribute to hospice projects in Zambia and Romania.

Staff at St Wilfrid’s enthusiastically backed Roy and his wife Norma to go to Romania to work with Hospices of Hope at Hospice Casa Sperantei in Brasov a number of times over a two-year period. In addition, St. Wilfrid’s welcomed a couple of nurses from Casa Sperantei to experience life and work in a UK hospice.

Having put in ten years’ service on the wards at St Wilfrid’s Hospice, Roy Walford retired – only to become a very active volunteer.

He started on the front desk, then, as a keen gardener with his own large allotment, moved to work in the gardens as part of a team of 15.

Enthusiastic volunteer gardeners form a friendly team which meets on Tuesday mornings to keep the hospice gardens and grounds looking beautiful.

Roy said: “It’s a privilege to be working with such a close-knit band of people. One of the highlights of my Tuesdays is sitting on a bench in the sun in such great company.”

Roy is now leaving the hospice and the Chichester area altogether, after many dedicated years of service.

He and his wife, Norma, who he met while working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, are moving back to his home town of Lichfield, in Staffordshire.

Communications officer Helen Humphry said: “The hospice would like to thank Roy for his dedicated years of service and wish the couple all the very best for a happy retirement.”

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