Doctor Tim Reflects on Art, Retirement and his Time at Hospiscare


Dr Tim's Hospiscare Christmas cards


After retiring from his role as a Hospiscare doctor in 2016, Tim Harlow turned his hand to art; his watercolour of a snowy Exeter street scene will be gracing this year’s Hospiscare Christmas cards. Here he looks back on his time at Hospiscare and beyond…

I was a GP for 16 years before I joined Hospiscare. As a GP, I always found palliative care very rewarding for the opportunity to make a difference at an important time in people’s lives; joining Hospiscare seemed like the ideal next step. How people die is very important – really, it’s about living. At Hospiscare I felt that helping people as a whole, not just their physical wellbeing but also emotional and social, was really part of the culture.

Caring is a two way street. Our patients heal us as much as we heal them; it’s one of the things I miss most about working at Hospiscare. Listening is incredibly important - I would always ask my patients, ‘Is there anything else we should know about you to help us care for you as best we can?’ One of the best things about Hospiscare was the extraordinary, meaningful conversations you’d end up having with people you’d just met when they came onto the ward.

Palliative care is a serious business, but that doesn’t mean it has to be solemn. Whenever you deal with Hospiscare people, you always end up laughing a lot – and I think people would rather be looked after by someone who’s having fun. The people I worked with were truly amazing; not just the nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants, but everyone from fundraising to housekeeping really goes the extra mile.

Since retiring, I’ve been trying to work out what I’m good at! I’ve started writing a book about my experiences, I’ve acted in plays, cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats and been lucky enough to travel to Namibia and Antarctica. Whenever I’m travelling, I take my notebook and sit and sketch what I see. Painting makes me look more carefully at things and notice the light and the colour; I find it very meditative.

I’m really pleased to still have a connection with Hospiscare; working with such a great team and helping people at the end of their lives was a real privilege.

Keep an eye out for Tim’s Hospiscare Christmas card design in the autumn! You can see more of his artwork here.

Hospiscare Christmas cards are available in Hospiscare shops; click here to find your local shop. 

Hospiscare is a local adult hospice charity, providing high quality care and support to people with any type of terminal illness, and those close to them, in Exeter, Mid and East Devon.  A gift to Hospiscare in your Will helps to ensure the future of the charity in Devon for generations to come.