Harvey’s Gang founder retires to expand charity

Monday January 28, 2019

After 43 years in healthcare, chief biomedical scientist Malcolm Robinson has retired to focus on the charity he was inspired to create while working in Worthing Hospital’s pathology department.

The founding of Harvey’s Gang is Malcolm’s proudest achievement but, as he looks back on a long and diverse career, he also takes great pride in the difference he has made as a healthcare scientist.

“Being a biomedical scientist is so unbelievably worthwhile,” said Malcolm. “The feeling that you have made a difference to someone’s life is the greatest feeling that you can get. And being involved with the NHS, regardless of your position, is like that – it is incredibly rewarding.”

The multi-award winning founder of Harvey’s Gang, who is renowned for shedding a tear or two, will also miss the camaraderie of his colleagues.

“I’m actually quite emotional about it,” said Malcolm. “I will miss working with such a fantastic group of people and I leave with a lot of happy memories from the staff in the lab, to the doctors, nurses and porters – I will miss them all.”

But it’s the charity named after 8-year-old Harvey Buster Baldwin, whom Malcolm showed around the pathology department before Harvey’s untimely death from leukaemia in 2014, which holds the most special place in his heart.

“What I will remember most from my time at Western Sussex Hospitals is Harvey’s Gang,” said Malcolm. “I have been doing the laboratory tours for just over four years so, for me, it hasn’t been happening for long, but it has had the biggest impact on my career.

“I will miss working with such a fantastic group of people and I leave with a lot of happy memories from the staff in the lab, to the doctors, nurses and porters – I will miss them all.”

“Now, we have 86 hospitals across the country and I will continue with Harvey’s Gang and help develop the Harvey’s Gang tours in more sites and spread it across different countries worldwide.”

Harvey’s Gang helps hospitals provide tours of their pathology laboratories to young patients with long-term conditions. It helps the children understand why they need to give blood and introduces healthcare scientists to the young people and families they care for.

Malcolm and the charity have received huge recognition in recent years for their work with Harvey’s Gang, including winning the Kate Granger Team Award for Compassionate Care in 2015; Biomedical Scientist of the Year 2018; as well as overall winner of the UK Advancing Healthcare Awards 2018.

However, it was Malcolm’s BBC One Show NHS 70 Award for Children and Young People’s Care which was the most special because it was presented by Harvey’s parents, Claire and Richard Baldwin.

Last summer, the One Show came to film Malcolm in the lab at Worthing Hospital but they also secretly arranged for his colleagues, family and Harvey’s Gang children to surprise him on television.

“I’ll never forget the day when I got the award as they asked if they could do an extra bit of filming. We walked across the entire length of Beach House Park, just talking and we did this three times! Then I saw everyone from Harvey’s parents and his friends to staff. It was incredibly moving.

“I was later told that the reason he wanted retakes was because when everyone was told that I had won the award, they started crying so they needed time to dry the tears and continue with the surprise factor that I had won! They were all in on it, but it was so unexpected and so lovely.”

Malcolm began his career in the Royal Navy in 1976 as a laboratory trainee. In 1989, he moved to the United Arab Emirates where he met his wife of 26 years, Linda. After a spell in the UK with Nuffield Health and more time back in the Middle East, the couple returned to the UK where he successfully applied for a locum biomedical scientist position at Worthing Hospital in 2006.

Malcolm soon became a full-time member of staff and was ultimately promoted to chief biomedical scientist in the pathology department.

“When I first arrived, the perception of pathology was that we practiced the dark arts,” said Malcolm.

“Thou shall not pass. But that is not what we are about. We really do want to be seen. About 70 to 80 per cent of all diagnoses are made by the people in these laboratories and people need to know about us. And we are now seen within various teams around the hospital.”

At the age of 60, Malcolm is now embarking on a new chapter and, although a bit apprehensive, he is greatly looking forward to being able to focus on the expansion of Harvey’s Gang around the world.

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