A beautiful tribute to Nicola Kirk, written by Jo Fitzgerald at
People Hub and published in the Guardian.
My friend Nicola Kirk (nee Darby), who has died aged 41 of
cancer, may not have been a politician or a medical professional,
but she was nevertheless a true pioneer in public services.
When her husband, Stephen, had an accident in 2008 that left him
completely paralysed from the neck down, life was turned upside
down for Nicola, Stephen and their baby daughter.
NHS acute care services proved to be excellent, but the
transition from hospital to home became Stephen's darkest period.
While free NHS care at home sounded good, the service he received
was unreliable and perfunctory.
By chance, the NHS in their area had joined a new initiative run
by the charity In Control. Nicola and Stephen became one of the
first families in England to have a personal health budget. This
meant being able to handpick their own team of personal
The family were now able to train Stephen's carers to be
competent and confident, so they could lead a more ordinary life.
Stephen could spend time on the beach in Cornwall and they could
take a family holiday to Spain.
Other people might have settled for that, but not Nicola. She
travelled the length and breadth of the country explaining to
health professionals, government ministers and NHS bosses why
having choice and control is so important to people using
My son is cared for at home under the same scheme, and I fully
understand why Nicola wanted to share her story. For her family and
ours, the experience has been life-changing. She was always
brilliant in front of the most apathetic or hostile audience, able
to engage with them without alienating them.
Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, Nicola was the second daughter
of Tony and Mary Darby, both teachers. She attended Kesteven and
Grantham girls' school and took a degree in international relations
at Nottingham Trent University.
Nicola then worked for a range of companies, undertaking
postgraduate qualifications and gaining extensive senior management
experience before becoming a retail and customer service
When she realised that there were very few organisations
offering flexible care packages, she set up her own
company, Solo Support
Services, in 2010.
forged ahead with her work despite being diagnosed with breast
cancer in 2009. She continued to speak in public and to advise
other families until her death.
She is survived by Stephen, her daughter, Kiki-Rose, her
step-daughters, Gabriella and Theodora, her sister, Clare, and her
To read this in the Guardian vist their website.