“To live a life that's greater than your own."
Franciscan priest and Founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation
Work Biography -Prof Keri Thomas 2021
As Founder and Clinical Lead of The National Gold Standards Framework (GSF) Centre in End-of-Life Care (EOLC), the UK’s leading training provider in EOLC for generalist frontline staff.
Keri is regarded nationally and internationally as an expert in improving generalist end-of-life care, developing strategic solutions-focused systems and quality improvement delivery at scale. She now leads GSF-International, including work through the charity (The Andrew Rodger Trust) in supporting GSF Africa work , end of life care in LMICs and in other countries through Horizon Life Care. She is involved in the NHSE/I COVID-19 Behaviour Change Unit Clinical Insight team and in mentoring and coaching.
At The GSF Centre ,she developed the 12 GSF quality improvement training programmes for primary care (2000), care homes (2004), hospitals and prisons (2008),domiciliary care (2011), retirement villages (2018) and others. The GSF Centre, was funded by the NHS for its first 10 years, then became a voluntary sector not-for-profit organization, and is now a subsidiary of Hospice UK , running the GSF work within the UK.
Working clinically as a GP and also in hospices for over 30 years, she was formerly DH National Clinical Lead for Generalist Palliative Care and RCGP EOLC Clinical Champion, and involved in many national policy and strategic developments.
In 2016 Keri was awarded an OBE by the Queen for services to end-of-life care . In 2017 she was awarded the Royal College of GPs (RCGP's ) President’s Medal for services to primary palliative and end of life care .In 2019 she became FMLM Senior Fellow (Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management) .
She has written and lectured extensively in the UK and internationally. Her books (Caring for the Dying at Home Radcliffe Medical Press 2003, Advance Care Planning in End of Life Care, Lead Editor, Oxford University Press 2011 and 2018) plus numerous articles/chapters. She is former Hon Professor in End of Life Care at the University of Birmingham,.
Her interests include (in work) end of life /palliative care, social care , advance care planning, quality Improvement , whole-system thinking, population health, change management, translation of policy into practice and mentorship /coaching of others. Her home interests include gardening , sculpture, art , tennis .Her faith is of vital part of her life, as a contemplative Christian.
Her greatest achievement however, is as wife and mother of 5 children and 3 grandchildren.
Keri qualified as a doctor in London in 1980 and that year was married to Andrew Rodger at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Whilst visiting Botswana together in 1982, in preparation for further work in Africa, they had a car accident in which Andrew sustained a serious head injury. They chartered a plane to seek further medical help in Johannesburg, South Africa. He died in transit.
South Africa at the time was at the height of Apartheid and Andrew was an active supporter of the anti-apartheid movement- they had been taking church documents of support to Bishop Tutu. On her return, Keri continued her medical career. She found herself a widow at the age of 25 and dedicated her working life to improving end of life/ palliative care and the relief of suffering.
Andrew’s early death affirmed to Keri how short life is – he died so suddenly and so young with still so much to do. He was outstandingly committed and ambitious to serve, with ideas of making a contribution to wherever there was suffering and need. So there was a sense after his death of trying in some way to continue his work in Africa as part of his legacy.
The last photo of Andrew Rodger and Keri together- taken an hour before the car crash in Botswana.
Andrew William Wylie Rodger was born in Edinburgh in 1958 and, with his brother Jock, the boys were adopted by Patrick and Margaret Rodger, both with strong Scottish roots. Patrick Rodger was an Anglican clergyman and became Bishop of Manchester and then Bishop of Oxford, at the time when Andrew was a scholar there at Christ Church in 1979.
Andrew read History at Oxford University, played rugby for his college, got an Oxford half blue for volleyball and other sports, and was involved in the chaplaincy there. He later took a PGCE in London to become a teacher. Andrew and Keri were married at Christchurch Cathedral in July 1980.
After 2 years of marriage, they visited Botswana and South Africa, with a view to doing further work there later. Andrew was killed in a car crash Aug 2nd 1984 aged 24 ,and he is buried and rests in peace in the garden of Christchurch Cathedral, which is near where Keri now lives. They had no children, but did have two wonderful years of marriage. His ambition to serve, commitment and energy live on in many ways including in the charity founded in his name.
Keri and Mark Thomas at the 2019 APCA Conference in Uganda.
Keri later writes “When my husband , Andrew , died suddenly in a car accident in 1982, I was just 25, and setting out on my journey in medicine. That personal tragedy brought me face to face with the hard reality that death is real, and we are all living in the context of our dying. The ‘end of life’ (measured by time) pointed to the ‘end’ of life (ultimate meaning). So enabling better care for people in their last phase of life, with any condition, in any setting, given by any care provider became my life’s work. That is why I set up the Gold Standards Framework, which over the past 20 years has championed best practice end of life care across health and social care settings in the UK and internationally."
I have been wonderfully fortunate and blessed to later remarry, and Mark and I have 5 wonderful children and 3 grandchildren. Mark and I set up the Andrew Rodger Trust charity in Andrew's name, to support improvements in palliative and end of life care, as the GSF Africa work.
The experience of being a young widow made an indelible impression on me and triggered my life’s work. It is my hope that some good has also come from this and from facing my own mortality, living every minute of life to the full - and I hope and believe that this can be the same for you also.
Living in the context of our dying helps us to re-prioritise, to value things that are important and causes us to ask, as Mary Oliver did;
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? "
Summers Day 1992 Mary Oliver
Keri and Mark celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2009 with their 5 children and dog Ella.