It is with great sadness that we share the news that Hospiscare’s founder, Dr John Searle, has died at Hospiscare at the age of 81. John leaves behind him an incredible legacy and a much-loved family.
Andrew Randall, CEO at Hospiscare, said, “John was an incredible person who I, and many others, feel very privileged to have met and I’m very glad Hospiscare could be there for him at the end.
“From everyone at Hospiscare, we wish to extend our everlasting thanks and gratitude to John for all he did for his community. Our thoughts are with John’s family, friends and loved ones at this time.”
After qualifying as a doctor, John worked at Guys Hospital, London, and in Ghana, before moving to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as a consultant anaesthetist and director of the intensive care unit.
In an interview to mark Hospiscare’s 40th anniversary in 2022, John explained that his interest in palliative care arose during his time as a medical student. “While looking after a lady who had advanced stomach cancer – for which there was really no treatment in those days – when the consultant came, without even acknowledging her, he said “Send her home and give her a bottle of whiskey a day” and he moved on to the next case. And I just thought, “Surely there’s a better way of doing this.”
And find a better way he did. Inspired by a lecture from Dame Cicely Saunders and impassioned about making conditions better for those diagnosed with a terminal illness, John – supported by his beloved wife, Elizabeth – gathered like-minded people and galvanised the local community to set up Hospiscare in Exeter in 1982 – acting first as chairman and later as president of our hospice. John was awarded an OBE for services to medicine and the hospice movement in 1998.
In addition to serving his community through his medical career and his work with the local Anglican community, John was father to Timothy, Rebecca, Mark and Rosie and grandfather to Heidi, Molly, Joseph, Lizzie, James, Dan, Charlie, Emily, Tom, Matty, Maisy and Coco.
John’s daughter, Rebecca, has shared with us these words about John’s last weeks: “On behalf of the family can we also express our immense gratitude for the care provided to Dad and also to us especially in those last few days.
“Dad wanted to end his days in the hospice, it was as he had envisioned all those decades ago – the medical care, the compassion, the dignity, the flexibility and much more. Dad sipping sherry in the hospice garden surrounded by family is a precious memory for us. Being at the hospice felt like being with family and in some ways home. We were delighted to hear the stories of the staff, many of whom knew Dad over decades.
“What an extraordinary team you all are – the new and the old, the medics, the nurses, the healthcare assistants, the chefs and lovely Arthur [from our housekeeping team]. When we were growing up Hospiscare was affectionately referred to as our parents’ fifth child – so having had the support of the team to care for mum at home in December 2021 and now also having been with Dad at Searle House for his last days has given us a certain completeness.”
Our thanks and gratitude go to John, for all that he did. He will be greatly missed.