Doctor shaves her head to raise money for St Wilfrid’s Hospice

Dr Bernadette Marnell
Dr Bernadette Marnell

Doctors aren’t generally given to making bold fashion statements in their surgeries, but Bognor GP Bernadette is about to chuck convention out of the window by sporting a skinhead. But it is charity, not style, that has prompted her new look.

“I’m raising money for St Wilfrid’s Hospice and everyone has been so generous. I exceeded my original £2,000 target and have now changed it to £3,000,” said Bernadette, who as a GP and someone who has lost both parents to cancer knows just how grim the illness can be. She also recognises the vital role that the Hospice plays in the community.

“Over the years, when my patients and their families have needed kindness, care, support and dignity, the Hospice has been amazing,” Bernadette told me, explaining that St Wilfrid’s is under increasing financial pressure. “They really need the extra beds that their relocation project will provide. At the moment St Wilfrid’s costs almost £7million a year to run and only 14% of this is funded by the NHS. ”

Of her impending head shave, Bernadette admitted to being terrified. “I’ve never had very short hair before and this will be a number one shave, but I try not to dwell and I’ve knitted woolly hats to keep my head warm. You have to get over yourself; hair grows. A head shave is symbolic because many people going through chemotherapy lose their hair.”

While her head may be cold enough to need a hat, Bernadette has the warmest of hearts. Not content with raising money, she is also donating her hair to the Little Princess Trust, a charity that makes real hair wigs for children who lose their own hair through treatment. “They don’t even seem to mind a bit of grey in it,” she joked.

Delighted to have secured the services of none other than celebrity hairdresser Stephen Webb, star of Channel 4’s Gogglebox, to chop her locks, Bernadette is also thrilled by the generosity of her patients, colleagues, friends and even her bank – “one lady in particular inspired the rest of the staff to raise a huge sum via a luxury hamper raffle.”

Quietly, she also admitted that she has benefitted herself from the experience.

“Doing this has given me confidence. I now know that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It has also given me great gratitude. Whenever I have a hellish day I know that it could be so much worse. Life is precious. I am privileged. Whatever you want to do, do it now; don’t wait. As a GP I couldn’t do my job without St Wilfrid’s, but what I raise will be a drop in the ocean of what is needed.”

But then if we all made a drop in that ocean….

Bernadette’s head shave takes place on Wednesday, February 1. Donations: here or c/o the Health Centre at Bognor Medical Practice.

St Wilfrid’s Hospice: