Saviour of Leuchie House awarded honorary doctorate

The inspirational former nurse who spearheaded the campaign to save the multiple sclerosis respite centre Leuchie House has been awarded an honorary degree at Queen Margaret University.

Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 5:47 pm
Mairi O'Keefe and Prue Leith who were awarded honorary degrees at Queen Margaret University (Photo: Queen Margaret University)

Mairi O’Keefe, who ran Leuchie House in North Berwick as chief executive, transformed the care home after it faced closure in 2010 into a sustainable charity.

She was presented with her honorary doctorate at a graduation ceremony in Usher Hall alongside Great British Bake Off star Prue Leith.

The former nurse took over the reins of Leuchie House in 2003 when it was operated by the MS Society but funding was hard to come by.

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In 2010, the MS Society said it would be forced to close the centre which provides respite care for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and other long term conditions.

Ms O’Keefe spearheaded the campaign to save the much loved facility and, after securing sufficient backing to set up Leuchie House as an independent charity, she and her team secured more than £4.5m in grants and donations from trust funds, members of the public and support from the Scottish Government.

During this time Ms O’Keefe sat on cross-party groups at the Scottish Parliament, was a member of the Governing Council for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and was vice chair of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, helping to contribute to the improvement of health and social care in the country.

She was also awarded ‘Community Champion of the Year’ in 2013 as part of STV awards and was awarded an MBE in 2015.

Professor Petra Wend, principal and vice chancellor at QMU, said: “Mairi’s skills as a leader, and as a determined fundraiser, meant that at the time of her retirement announcement last year, Leuchie House had successfully delivered more than 33,000 respite nights for its guests since it was established as an independent charity.

“We are proud to recognise Mairi as a hard working advocate for people living with disabilities across Scotland and beyond. Today, we celebrate her achievements as a leader and her success in integrating healthcare with respite services to create a model which is acknowledged as an exemplar in the Scottish social care sector.”