Image of the graduation procession inside the Liverpool Cathedral

Dame Gillian Oliver

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Dame Gill Oliver for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

Gill Oliver has made an outstanding career-long commitment to cancer services and the care and support of the people affected by cancer - at a practical level as a ward sister, at national level while working as Adviser in Oncology Nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, and at organisational and managerial levels as Director of Patient Services at the Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology on the Wirral.    

Gill was born in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, to Frank and Molly Power. Following a happy and settled childhood, she left Brentwood Grammar School at 18 to train as a nurse at Middlesex Hospital. After gaining SRN status in 1965, she completed 1 year as a theatre nurse before getting married to an engineer, Jeremy Oliver, whom she had known since they were at infant's school together. The marriage is clearly working: not only have they been married for 40 years, but Jeremy actually gave up a game of golf to be here today….   

Gill then took time out bringing up 3 girls: Kathryn, Sarah and Ruth, before returning to nursing on a part-time basis in 1972. She was always dedicated to nursing and took great inspiration from the excellent ward sisters she encountered, each one of them a leader who really made a difference to the quality of nursing care. At this stage in the early 1970s, it seemed as if Gill was destined for a worthy yet unremarkable career, but in 1974, the family moved to the Wirral and Gill enrolled on an Open University degree course in Art & History. The OU course changed her life: confidence was uplifted, horizons were broadened, and new opportunities were grasped. 

After working at Heswall Children's Hospital, she took up an appointment at Clatterbridge Hospital in 1978, first as a Night Sister, then as a Ward Sister. In the early 1980s, she successfully completed Part A of a Diploma in Nursing at Liverpool John Moores University. In 1987, she successfully applied for a 2-year secondment to work for the Royal College of Nursing in London as an Advisor on Oncology Nursing. Here she was swimming in a much bigger pool, gaining experience of working in partnership with a wide range of health professionals, and realising that it was possible for her to have an influence on national policy in relation to nursing care.  

Back on the Wirral in 1989, she was head-hunted by Mersey Regional HA for the post of Regional Nurse for Cancer Services and Palliative Care.  Gill didn't particularly enjoy the role of bureaucrat and was glad to take up the post of Director of Patient Services at Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology in 1990, becoming a board-level Director of the new hospital trust in 1992. 

The 1990s was a particularly good decade for Gill. Whilst at Clatterbridge, doing a job she loved, she made substantial contributions to planning and strategy groups at local and national level and was an influential member of the Department of Health Expert Advisory Group on Cancer which produced the policy framework for commissioning cancer services in England and Wales. 

Subsequently she has served on the National Cancer Forum and was recently a member of the Department of Health's National Advisory Group on Palliative and Supportive Care. She also completed two terms as Chair of the RCN Cancer Nursing Society and was First Vice-President of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care from 1996 to 2000.    

Gill has been an invited speaker at meetings and conferences nationally and internationally, and has contributed to multi-authored texts and to professional journals.  She is a member of the Editorial Board of the European Journal of Cancer Care, and a member of the Boards of Trustees of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.  

In 1998, Gill became a trustee of Macmillan Cancer Relief and was subsequently persuaded by the chief executive to apply for the post of Director of Service Development. She was appointed in April 2000 with responsibility for expanding and developing Macmillan services for people affected by cancer. She continued to contribute to policy and strategy development both within Macmillan and in partnership with the Department of Health.  

In October 2004, she retired from her full-time post but continues to work for Macmillan Cancer Relief in a part-time capacity as Advisor for Nursing and Allied Health Professionals. Gill was created Dame Commander of the British Empire in June 1998 for services to healthcare and nursing, and awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing later that year. 

In 2004, she was awarded the Gold Medal from Macmillan Cancer Relief in recognition of outstanding services to the people and families of those suffering from cancer. Gill Oliver has dedicated herself throughout her career to the welfare of others less fortunate than herself. And despite her sustained and well-acknowledged excellence, Gill is not the kind of person who would let it go to her head. She is modest to a fault: she says she couldn't have done anything without the team of people around her. She's not convinced she deserves the accolades. She claims that it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.    

Such complete lack of vanity surely makes Gill Oliver all the more worthy of the honours she has already received and the honour we bestow today.  

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Dame Gill Oliver, most distinguished alumnus and adopted daughter of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.