Claire Rayner nursing scholarship launched at University of Huddersfield

PUBLISHED: 12:53 04 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:18 20 February 2013

Prof Bob Cryan, vice chancellor of Huddersfield University, Katherine Murphy, chief executive of  the Patients’ Association, Barbara Schofield, winner of the Claire Rayner scholarship, Christine Beasley, Chief Nursing Officer for England, and Jay Rayner

Prof Bob Cryan, vice chancellor of Huddersfield University, Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, Barbara Schofield, winner of the Claire Rayner scholarship, Christine Beasley, Chief Nursing Officer for England, and Jay Rayner

The work of patients' champion Claire Rayner goes on with a new education programme launched in West Yorkshire

Agony aunt, nurse and patients champion Claire Rayner died last year but not before she knew that her ideals had inspired a major scholarship at the University of Huddersfield.


And she even managed to exercise an indirect influence over the first recipient of the Claire Rayner Scholarship, which is formally launched at a special event later this year.


The award was handed to successful candidate Barbara Schofield by the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Professor Christine Beasley. Also in attendance was Claire Rayners son, celebrity food writer and TV personality Jay Rayner.


There were a substantial number of applicants for the scholarship, which waives fees and offers a bursary so that the recipient can undertake three years of study into an aspect of nursing, aiming towards the award of PhD.


The result was that the inaugural scholarship has gone to Barbara Schofield, from Birkby, Huddersfield, who is consultant nurse for older people in the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust. She will study dignity and compassion in care and whether it can be taught to student nurses.


Former nurse Sue Bernhauser, who knew Claire Rayner well, is Dean of the School of Human and Health Sciences at the University of Huddersfield. She explained that several high calibre applicants for the scholarship were whittled down to a shortlist of three, but the final decision was tricky.


We were spoiled for choice really. So we asked the representative of the Patients Association who on the interview panel which candidate Claire would have picked.


Sue explained how the scholarship came about. Claire and I used to disagree a lot, but the fact is that she was the sort of woman who made people think about what they were doing, which was wonderful, and I thought that it would be good to mark her contribution by having a scholarship in her name. She was absolutely delighted.


If she had not died in October, some months after surgery, Claire Rayner would have been closely involved in the selection process and the details of the scholarship that carried her name, added Sue.


A night of music and comedy to celebrate the life of Claire Rayner will also mark the launch of the scholarship. The event on June 5th at the Criterion Theatre, London, will be led by Stephen Fry aided by Dame Eileen Atkins, Tom Robinson and Sandi Toksvig among others.


Food critic Jay Rayner, Claire Rayners eldest son, said that his mother had a talent for making a positive advantage of even the bad things that happened to her. Her treatment for breast cancer in 2002, at the age of 71, led to useful work for Cancer Research UK and her later personal discovery that old people were being routinely neglected in some hospital geriatric units prompted more campaigning.


Claire Rayner was born in 1931 in London, she trained as a nurse and wrote novels in her spare time, later establishing herself as an agony aunt with regular appearances on television and advice columns in newspapers and magazines. At the peak of her fame, affectionate impersonations of her coaxing bedside manner were commonplace.


She died in October last year aged 79, famously asking her last words to go down as: Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS Ill come back and bloody haunt him.


All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Patients Association, the campaigning organisation that she headed for many years. There is no doubt, bearing in mind her last words, that she would regard it as a crucial organisation today, particularly in the light of the cuts that are being imposed in the NHS, her son added.

Can dignity and compassion in care be taught to student nurses? Share with us your experiences of nursing care good or bad.


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