21st March 2019 | News Archive

Long time CNHC supporter and CNHC registered Massage Therapist, Keith Hunt MBE, will soon be retiring from his post as the Complementary Therapy Co-ordinator at the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust. Over the course of his career, Keith has dedicated much of his life’s work to setting up and running the Complementary massage therapy service at the Royal Free.

Keith started planting the seeds for the service nearly 30 years ago. It all started in 1992 when he started a voluntary massage service while he was the manager of the staff sports centre at the Royal Free hospital. He was the sole volunteer for several years, but as the word spread, the demand for the service began to grow. By the year 2000, Keith was seeing over 2500 patients a year voluntarily, alongside his full-time role.

Thanks to the success and popularity of the service, the hospital employed Keith as a Massage Therapist in 2001. As a full-fledged member of staff, he was able to take on volunteers to expand the service. Over the next four years the service continued to build. By 2005 Keith was able to hire 4 paid staff and nearly double the number of patients seen. Fast forward to 2018 and the service is now fully funded by the Royal Free Charity, run by 11 paid staff and 14 volunteers, seeing nearly 35,000 patients a year.

Keith’s grit and perseverance shines through in his years of dedication to building this service at the Royal Free. While there were some who were sceptical at first, he was determined to change people’s minds and did this by letting the positive patient feedback speak for itself. His hard work certainly didn’t go unnoticed by his colleagues. Following nominations from several consultants at the hospital, Keith was awarded an MBE in 2013.

Keith Hunt MBE

The success of the Complementary massage therapy service is really down to Keith’s passion to make it work – not only for patients, but also the consultants and others who refer into the service. He streamlined the referral process and ensured that his staff and volunteers were appropriately trained for the type of patients they were seeing. Keith also relied on the consultants to direct the pathway for the patient’s treatment, only saw patients that had been referred to the service and acknowledged that massage therapy worked alongside their conventional medical treatment.

In terms of putting patients first, Keith says “we are guided by the patient from the moment they are referred to the service. First and foremost, we treat them with compassion and understanding. For many patients, this is one aspect of their care that they can take control of. While our individual daily sessions are only 15 minutes long, they can have a profound impact on the patient’s overall wellbeing.”

The Complementary therapy massage service is so popular that there isn’t an area of the hospital that doesn’t refer their patients to it. The staff and volunteers not only cover the cancer wards, but nearly every other area of the hospital including: cardiology, care of the elderly, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, haematology, infectious diseases, liver, maternity, neurology, plastic surgery, renal, respiratory, rheumatology and vascular departments.

The team works in many different settings and they adapt to their environment as needed. Patients could receive a massage while lying down, in a chair, on the wards or receiving treatment such as chemotherapy. Each massage uses specially blended oils appropriate for each patient. The therapy is very gentle and does not use any pressure points, unless directed by a consultant or medical professional.

Dr Jackie Newby, Consultant Medical Oncologist comments about the service: “cancer and its treatment presents a massive physical, psychological and emotional challenge to patients. The complementary therapy team here makes a huge difference to people’s abilities to copy through these difficult periods. With their help, working as a team, we can provide a more holistic service, focusing not just on the disease and its medical treatment, but on the person as a whole.”

Keith has built a remarkable service in his time at the Royal Free, and we know he will be missed. We wish him the best in his retirement and know we know that his legacy will live on and benefit patients for years to come.

Keith Hunt MBE outside the complementary therapy service department at the Royal Free