Elaine was a midwife who helped instigate and improve collaboration with health professionals. She personified the words and meaning of bereavement care.

This Award honours Elaine and those who follow in her footsteps in offering vital bereavement care to anyone affected by pregnancy loss or baby loss.

Elaine first became aware of the need for better bereavement care in the late 1970s and became involved with Sands in 1991 when she took on the role of Bereavement Officer at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. 

She was a true pioneer in listening to bereaved parents and understanding their need to be offered choices to create memories and spend time with their babies if that’s what they wanted. She offered families what are now considered essential elements of care such as memory boxes, cold cots, and being able to bath, dress and spend time with their baby.       

Elaine became a Sands volunteer and, in 2000, a Trustee of the charity, later becoming the first non-bereaved parent Vice Chair of the Sands Board of Trustees.  

"I first met Elaine Thorp in Birmingham in the late 1980s when she worked at the Women’s Hospital and I was a social worker at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  At that time we shared involvement in a patient’s care.

"As a midwife Elaine had become aware of the need for bereavement support for parents and families initially in her own hospital.  She was subsequently appointed the Hospital’s Bereavement Officer, a trail blazing role."

- Jeanne Nicholls, past Chair of Sands and bereaved mum

Read more about Jeanne Nicholl's memories of Elaine Thorp.

Throughout her 40 year career in the NHS, Elaine was instrumental in providing bereavement care and support to parents, through her midwifery role at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, which included steering the refurbishment of the Abbey Suite, separate dedicated bereavement rooms, designed specifically for women experiencing a pregnancy loss.  

Many bereaved parents have told Sands of the wonderful support and care they received from Elaine and her staff following the loss of their babies, and her support with subsequent pregnancies was greatly valued. 

"Elaine was truly incredible, and one of the most kindest, generous, people I've ever met. Genuinely the most beautiful soul that you just felt safe with. I first met Elaine at the Sands garden not many years after losing Rebecca. She was the only person my husband ever opened up to. I so wished she'd been our midwife because I think I'd have far less regrets and as a couple and a family as a whole, we'd have coped far better than we did

"The little things mattered to Elaine. All the babies she'd delivered mattered to her, she remembered them all.  Rebecca mattered to her. For me though her smile and infectious laugh, and love for F1 and Lewis Hamilton are some of the things I fondly remember most! When things were a challenge she'd hold you gently and listen. Elaine was someone I was proud to call her my friend, and I miss her terribly, our whole family does."

- Carolyn, Rebecca's mum


(Pictured: Elaine Thorp with Carolyn)

Jean still remembers the care and kindness she was shown by nurse Elaine Thorp after her baby son died in the 1970s.

"I first came in contact with Elaine on a post-natal ward after the birth of my first son.  She was a staff nurse, quite adept at chivvying junior staff and patients into conforming to the rules of the day.  During the next three years I experienced a miscarriage (at home) and the neonatal death of a son who had died in the nursery of the post-natal ward.  

"Then, at a booking clinic a sprightly young nurse took my history and said, “Let’s hope this will be third time lucky!”.  This left me astonished but fortunately, Sister Elaine Thorp was there and she took the time to check out my feelings and offered support at the subsequent ante-natal appointments.  This was before Sands was established.

"Several years on it became apparent that Elaine had understood the significance of my recalling my experience (and probably similar stories from others) of isolation and rapid discharge from hospital after the loss.  It took time but I think she managed to influence the right people for there to be facilities provided conducive with good bereavement care."

- Jean, Sands volunteer supporter and bereaved parent from Solihull

Jean later helped set up one of the first Sands support groups and is still involved with the charity through the Elaine Thorp Award panel. 


Elaine retired from the NHS in 2007 and sadly died in 2013, but those with whom she worked and volunteered remember her with great affection. 

It is the work of people like Elaine that first championed the importance of bereavement care and of training for midwives and other health professionals. The work of Sands and the development of the National Bereavement Care Pathway owes much to her perseverance and insights. 

The Elaine Thorp Award for Bereavement Care aims to celebrate her life and recognise her legacy embodied by those healthcare professionals who are now striving to ensure parents get the high quality bereavement care they deserve.



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