Obituary: Lily Elizabeth Kennedy MBE, social campaigner

Born: 19 October, 1922, in Glasgow. Died: 1 December, 2014, in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, aged 92

Lily Kennedy MBE: Campaigner for elderly people and health service provision
Lily Kennedy MBE: Campaigner for elderly people and health service provision
Lily Kennedy MBE: Campaigner for elderly people and health service provision

Lily Elizabeth Kennedy, who died peacefully at Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria, was a doughty campaigner for elderly people and health service provision in West Dunbartonshire. She was 92.

Such was the extent of her work and the determination and diplomacy with which she carried it out that she was honoured by the Queen with an MBE.

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Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, with which she was frequently at odds, so respected her that they invited her to officially open the new £20 million Vale of Leven Medical Centre with Alex Neil, the then cabinet secretary for health, in 2013.

A year earlier, in December 2012, the Scottish Parliament officially recognised Lily when they passed a motion by her MSP, Jackie Baillie, commending her for her work.

MSPs on all sides of the chamber noted that the then 90-year-old was presented with an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde chairman’s award for services to volunteering and health.

They further noted that the Vale of Leven woman launched the area’s seniors forum; that Lily was also the chair of West Dunbartonshire Community Care Forum and had been heavily involved in discussions to protect and improve health and social care services, and congratulated her on all her achievements.

Defending services at the Vale of Leven Hospital was a war of attrition for Lily and fellow campaigners who were many in number and made their feelings known at large protest marches.

They saw service after service shut down or transferred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Inverclyde Royal and the Golden Jubilee in Clydebank.

First it was the maternity hospital that closed and consultants were transferred.

The accident and emergency, mental healthcare, orthopaedic, cardiac surgery and gynaecological services units followed and even the laboratory and ambulance depot shut down.

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There was much to campaign against as the Argyll and Clyde Health Board was itself axed and replaced by the Lomond Primary Care Trust, which was also closed down, and the hospital was downgraded from a district general to a care of the elderly unit and virtual cottage hospital status.

Only recently even the hospital shop was reduced to a newspaper and snacks trolley service for patients, a move which left Lily dismayed.

But the largest concern of all for Lily and the campaigners, who supported MSP Jackie Baillie in her call for a public inquiry, was the death of 34 patients.

That caused Scotland’s largest health board to be heavily criticised over “serious personal and systemic failures” leading to the country’s worst ever Clostridium difficile (C.diff) outbreak.

The five-year investigation into the causes of the outbreak at Vale of Leven Hospital found NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (GGC) had “badly let down” patients, with “totally unacceptable” delays in treatment and “governance and management failures”.

Although the inquiry’s chairman, Lord MacLean, reserved the worst criticism for the health board, he said the Scottish Government had also failed to put in place a rigorous inspection regime that could have identified the “dysfunctional” practices at the hospital.

Anyone who came into contact with Lily, no matter what age they were, left feeling inspired because she had fantastic communication skills and made you feel better about yourself and the world we live in.

In her role as chair of the community care forum carers’ services in West Dunbartonshire services improved immensely and she worked hard to improve respite and bathing services for the elderly in the area.

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Leading the tributes to Lily, Baillie said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lily Kennedy.

“She was much-loved and a stalwart of the local community. Whether it was championing pensioners’ rights in the Vale of Leven or chairing Dunbritton Housing Association, Lily gave it her all. Lily always had time for others and fought against injustice wherever she saw it.

“She was a tireless and passionate campaigner for health services at the Vale of Leven hospital and made a huge contribution as the chair of the West Dunbartonshire Community Care Forum.”

Baillie added: “Lily was a wonderfully kind woman, a formidable campaigner and someone I am privileged to call a friend.”

The Rev Ian Miller, formerly of Bonhill Parish Church, said Lily always campaigned for what she believed was right.

He said: “People like Lily are gold in our communities.

“She battled for pensioners and she battled for our health services and used to take exercise classes in the Vale right into her eighties, but she was also very humble.

“Lily fought for what she believed was right and was a pillar in our community which is something we should all strive for.”

Lily, who was a window dresser and always immaculately turned out, once said of her own work: “I began volunteering because I think it is important to stand up and be counted.

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“I have a strong interest in community care because it covers a very wide spectrum of issues which I support.”

A member of the Vale of Leven Hospital Monitoring Group, Lily helped Andrew Robertson, GGC chairman, cut the first sod of the new Vale Health and Care Centre and was presented with the building’s first brick. She also won the Chairman’s Award in 2012.

Robertson said: “Lily dedicated the past 30 years to volunteering and campaigning.

“Her tireless support for health, welfare and housing rights for older people over many decades was inspirational and the people of West Dunbartonshire were lucky to have such a dedicated supporter and volunteer championing their best interests.

“She worked tirelessly for the local community and was at the forefront of the campaign to bring a new health centre to the area.”

Lily, who was predeceased by her husband, Patrick, is survived by her daughter, Lilli, and 
grandchildren, Lesley and Trudi.

She was educated in Glasgow and the Lake District and worked as a nurse in Stonehouse Hospital, Lanarkshire, during the Second World War before embarking on a long career in the fashion and drapery trade.