Dr Mary Baines: hospice pioneer

25th August 2020

Tributes are being paid to Dr Mary Baines OBE who has died peacefully at St Christopher’s Hospice. Dr Baines played an instrumental role in establishing hospice care when she joined St Christopher’s in 1968 as a consultant when she was approached by her friend Dr Cicely Saunders.

In 1969 Dr Baines was the driving force behind the establishment of St Christopher’s home care service, a pioneering approach that cared for patients in their own familiar surroundings, and an approach that is now replicated worldwide. Dr Baines also carried out research at the hospice, published textbooks and spoke at conferences about hospice and palliative care, devoting much time to supporting training for hospices in Eastern Europe and Africa.

Speaking in 2014 she said:

“When Cicely first asked me to join her staff at St Christopher’s I said no. I had worked in general practice for ten years and enjoyed it; it was a safe job with a future. My medical friends said that a move to hospice would be professional suicide. It was a new specialty you see, no-one had done it before. At this time, doctors had no interest in people who were dying, they were only interested in people who could be cured. My friend Cicely was determined and had been since I first met her in 1954 when we both started our medical training at St Thomas’s. I have to say that I thought it was very odd, this idea of caring for the dying. If you asked me at the time whether I thought anything would come of it, I would have said no. If you think of it, it really is incredible. Can you think of any woman, or any man for that matter, who founded not only a hospice but a branch of medicine around the world?”

Professor Richard Harding, (Herbert Dunhill Chair at the Cicely Saunders Institute) said:

“I was very sad to hear of Mary’s death. Whenever we had an event at the Cicely Saunders Institute I always knew that we would have the pleasure of Mary’s company. She always demonstrated a keen engagement with current challenges in global palliative care- and at the same time she would skilfully reference the current debate back to the early challenges faced by her and Cicely in their pioneering developments. Mary always had a sharp focus on expansion of palliative care, and especially care for patients and families in the community. Her vision always included partners around the world, and would often reflect on international challenges and the global leaders she and Cicely had encouraged during her career. I shall miss seeing her at the Institute, and our chats about work, her garden and her family.” 

Professor Irene Higginson, Director of the Cicely Saunders Institute said:

“Mary Baines was a pioneer of home palliative care, in particular, finding the evidence which enabled us to manage people in the community despite having bowel obstruction. She developed techniques that underpinned approaches that we still use today. She was a great supporter and friend to the Cicely Saunders Institute and Cicely Saunders International. We will miss her presence at seminars, workshops and meetings. I will personally miss her advice and dedication.”

Frank and Lynn Hill said:

“Mary was a mentor, friend and neighbour to us both for many years. She was a central figure in the St Christopher’s Hospice family and her quiet and retiring nature disguised the major contribution she made with Dame Cicely to the promotion and growth of the Hospice Movement. We will miss her and will always remember her.”

St Christopher’s is holding a memorial service for Mary and is inviting personal tributes celebrating Mary’s achievements on St Christopher’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.