Medical director of East Midlands children’s hospice recognised in New Year’s Honours

The medical director of Rainbows has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours.

Dr Satbir Jassal, who is also a general practitioner, has been recognised for his services to palliative care for children and young people. In 1993, he set up the role of Medical Director at Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People from nothing and has developed it into a role model for others.

Accepting the accolade, Dr Jassal (52), of Loughborough, was completely overwhelmed. He said: “When I found out about this MBE, I was totally shocked; I really wasn’t expecting anything like this. But I am thrilled to have received such a high accolade and it is something that I will always treasure. I have been with Rainbows Hospice for over 20 years and it is a fantastic place. It really is like an extended family and working with the children and young people, their families and the staff has been truly inspirational. I am very passionate about my work, the education and training of healthcare professionals in this field, both in the UK and abroad, which has been an honour and privilege in itself.”

Dr Jassal was a founder member of the Association of Paediatric Palliative Medicine and is one of two GP members of the group developing the curriculum for paediatric palliative care. He is a co-author and contributor for many text books, including the Oxford Handbook of Paediatric Palliative Medicine, as well as developing the first ever Rainbows Children’s Symptom Control Manual, which is now published through Together for Short Lives and is in its 9th edition. Dr Jassal also delivers training on paediatric palliative medicine to the wider children’s palliative care community.

Despite the fact that he is not a paediatrician, Dr Jassal is highly respected as an expert in the field of children and young people’s palliative care. His work has raised the profile of Rainbows. In 2009, Dr Jassal was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in recognition of his contribution.

Alison Cooke, director of care at Rainbows nominated Dr Jassal for the award. She said: “Dr Jassal thoroughly deserves this award. He is one of the pioneers of children’s palliative care and has been a leader in the field from the outset. His expertise is recognised by colleagues worldwide, for example, Rainbows recently had a visit from the manager of a children’s hospice in Australia who told me that she felt privileged to meet him and had a copy of his symptom control manual on her desk at work. His achievements are all the more incredible because he is not a paediatrician; he is a GP and he has done so much of this work in his own time on top of his full time job.

“Dr Jassal is an extremely humble man who is always the first to recognise the achievements of others whilst playing down his own contribution. His work has been of immense benefit to the children and young people at Rainbows, and he has helped to improve the lives of children and young people with palliative care needs across the world. I am proud to work alongside him.”

In 2010, 12-year-old Harry Smith sadly passed away of neuro-degenerative condition. Harry had been visiting Rainbows since 2006 and Dr Jassal was instrumental in his care.

Harry’s mum, Lucy, said: “It is fair to say Harry’s health needs were very challenging and on occasions, Dr Jassal contacted his colleagues both nationally and internationally to discuss Harry’s symptoms. Nothing was too much for Dr Jassal where Harry was concerned, and he was always available at the end of a phone when problems occurred at home.

“Harry’s last four years would have been so much harder, he would not have been able to have so much fun and his quality of life would not have been anywhere near as good without the marvellous support from Rainbows and in particular, that of Dr Jassal.”