PROFESSOR HUGH MCKENNA’s INTRODUCTION TO MARION JANNER ON THE OCCASION OF HER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
“Tough, tenacious, intelligent, knowledgeable, politically astute, good sense of humour, transformational leader, loyal team player, finds opportunities in crises, and skilled advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. That would be the job description for the role of Chief executive of a social justice campaigning charity. Fortunately, the job has been filled for some time by a person who has all those qualities: Marion Janner. When one meets Marion, one is immediately drawn to her seemingly boundless energy, focus, and a personality that enters the room before she does. She is one of a rare breed - a gifted individual with social, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. There are however, two Marion Janner’s who live symbiotically with each other. First, is a woman of enormous courage who works for the betterment of those who have learning disabilities and mental illnesses. Second, is as the foster mother of Eddie and Matthew, both of whom have the learning disability, Williams’ Syndrome. We should not forget another important member of the family Buddy, her legendary 12 year old Tibetan Terrier. Incidentally, Buddy has her own web page and her photograph graces many a mental health ward noticeboard! Previous roles include Project Manager at Learning Difficulties Media, Director of Payback, and Head of Services, Nacro housing and training services. Marion is also a trustee of the LankellyChase Foundation, a charity that works to bring about change that transforms the quality of life of people who face severe and multiple disadvantage. However, perhaps her most important role emerged following her experience as a detained inpatient. It was because of this unhappy experience. That Marion set up Star Wards and its parent charity BRIGHT. Star Wards helps mental health wards introduce mainly small, low-cost changes which have a huge impact on patients’ and staff experiences. Star Wards’ approach is based on a deep appreciation of the skills, qualities and resilience of staff and patients and is pragmatic about the realities of introducing change in highly pressurised, often grossly under-funded services. It has been described as the most significant development in mental health inpatient care for decades, and led to Marion receiving an OBE for services to mental health. 650 of the country’s 800 or so mental health wards are members of Star Wards and thanks to the enthusiasm and creativity of ward staff and patients, there have been substantial improvements in patient and staff satisfaction, therapeutic activities and a reduction in aggression. One nurse manager wrote: “In my opinion every acute ward in the country should implement as many of the Star Wards ideas as they possibly can. I have never known an initiative to be met with such enthusiasm by the staff that actually work on our wards. Somehow it manages to combine improvements in the quality of care for patients with improvements in job satisfaction for our front line staff - a winning combination.” For the young people here this evening Marion Janner’s achievements show us that life is not just about the values you seek - it’s about the values you stand for. She defines this approach – she has made extraordinary contributions to our professions through her work. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to know that she is human just like the rest of us. She tells me that few years ago she was visiting Addenbrookes Hospital with Joy Bray (then the MH liaison nurse there) and was very generously given a VIP tour of A&E. As you would expect, she totally professional, asking sensible questions, sharing some examples she knew from other hospitals and impressing all there with her knowledge and poise. 4 hours later, Joy was transporting her back into A&E in a wheelchair – and Marion was swearing, moaning and generally being far from professional. The transformation was due to a major gallstones attack. The points of this story are twofold: first, mentally ill people also, of course, have physical health crises! And second, roles are fluid - Joy moved seamlessly from being her colleague to being her temporary carer. Perhaps even more pertinent was that she got to experience first-hand of what it was like to be someone with a mental illness being treated (very well!) in A&E. Another example of her being human like the rest of us is that she occasionally makes errors of judgment. Perhaps one of her most interesting roles was as Director of company that made chocolate called Chocolate Paradise. She created that company to ‘broker’ specialist chocolates for companies to use as promotional gifts. One of her clients was Hello! Magazine. Alas, it was not a commercial success and its demise is greatly missed by those many friends and colleagues who received free samples of the product. A good pub quiz question would be on what has Marion Janner got in common with Shami Chakrabati, Louis Hamilton and Ranulph Fiennes. Well, she was shortlisted with them in the Morgan Stanley Great Britons 2007 award. It is no surprise that she was in such esteemed company. Leaders such as Marion have always been admired; those with the courage, faith and intuition to say it like it is. In business these people take calculated risks, care less about the bottom line and more about ideas and innovation and are intent on bettering the world along the way. She pursues things that seem unrealistic and unreachable until the very moment they become a reality. I think you would agree that it is indeed a worthy thing when you achieve the most you can do with the time you have in life. Marion has accomplished a great deal, taking advantage of all the possibilities that came her way, and yet she has also found time to give of herself– she acquires and she gives back. It has been said that there are two types of people; those who want to be somebody great and those who want to do something great. Our recipient of the JPMHN Life Time Achievement Award this year is the latter, and our world is better off because of that. Marion is exactly the kind of refreshing individual who is – by word, dead and example – creating new opportunities, removing obstacles and making a real difference in others’ lives. She evokes the bigger picture of quality care and occupies its centre! In recognition for her outstanding services to mental health care, it is my great honour and privilege to invite Marion Janner to the lectern. She is joined by her sister Laura Janner-Klausner who is a Chief Rabbi. Please show your appreciation in the usual way”.
June 11th JPMHN Lifetime Achievement Award