IT was a day of which she would have been enormously proud.
The legacy of agony aunt, nurse and patients’ champion Claire Rayner has inspired a major scholarship at Huddersfield University.
It was officially launched yesterday, with the inauguration of the first ever recipient.
Members of the nursing profession from all over the country attended the special event together with the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Prof Christine Beasley.
Also in attendance was Claire’s son, celebrity food writer and TV personality Jay Rayner.
He told the Examiner: “She was very excited when she heard that a scholarship was being planned in her name by Huddersfield University.
“Once she died it was clear that a number of things were going to carry on in her name and this is one of them.
“A PhD in the subject of compassion and nursing care is exactly what she believed in.
“Claire championed the importance of compassion in nursing, that it was not simply about taking temperatures, administering drugs and making beds.
“She believed it required an element of emotion and argued for that.
“She loved the crowds and would have loved to have been here among her peers, the great and good of the profession. I’m immensely proud to be here on her behalf.”
Claire, from Harrow in London, died in hospital in October last year aged 79, after remaining ill following intestinal surgery.
The award-winning journalist began her career as a nurse and for many years was president of the Patients’ Association.
She became a household name as an agony aunt on problem pages in national newspapers and also made numerous appearances on television and radio.
Claire was also a successful author and in 1996 was awarded the OBE for ‘services to women’s issues and health issues’.
She campaigned extensively for patients’ rights and right up until her death was being consulted by both politicians and the medical profession.
Her son Jay, who is currently the Observer’s restaurant critic and food reporter on BBC magazine programme The One Show, said his mother was first and foremost a campaigner.
He said she had a big influence on him as a fellow writer but would not be happy with the way the country’s health service is heading.
He helped his mum concoct her final words which were: “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.”
Jay said: “She would not have been happy with the changes being proposed now. She believed in care free on demand and would have had concerns with the fact that jobs are being lost on the frontline and what’s being said about the government and private healthcare firms.”
The three-year scholarship studying an aspect of nursing was awarded to Barbara Schofield, who is a consultant nurse for older people at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS FoundationTrust.
Barbara, from Birkby, will study dignity and compassion in care and whether it can be taught to student nurses.
She said: “I am very proud and privileged to be the first recipient.
“I know that Claire was extremely passionate about patients and compassion in nursing and I like to think there’s a similarity there – I’m delighted to be doing this for her.”