The RT. Hon Lord Harris of Peckham & Lady Harris DBE DL
A simple belief that children should have the best possible start in life and a good education underpins Lord Philip and Lady Pauline Harris’ long commitment to foetal medicine and to the Academy school movement.
Since the mid 70s the Harris family has committed 20% of their wealth to philanthropy and raised hundreds of millions of pounds for various causes, including disability, cancer (funding the country’s first breast cancer scanner at Paddington Hospital) and end of life care through the Harris Hospice in Orpington.
The relationship between Wellbeing of Women (previously Birthright) and Lord and Lady Harris spans over thirty years. Through it, they have touched hundreds of thousands of families around the world.
In the mid 80s the Harris Birthright centre for foetal medicine was founded at King’s College Hospital, London. It is now a leading clinical unit and research centre for the assessment and treatment of unborn babies, caring for more than 10,000 patients each year.
Four more Harris Birthright centres quickly followed, including St Mary’s, known as the ‘Save the Baby Unit’ and the largest clinic of its kind in the world. It offers hope to over 1000 couples every year who give birth to healthy live babies who would not otherwise exist.
The other Harris Birthright Centres are Oxford’s Pre-Eclampsia Research Centre; Sheffield’s Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Aberdeen’s Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer. Another centre dedicated to pre-term research is due to open imminently in Liverpool.
Alongside money, Lord Harris has applied the ‘people management’ skills on which his successful carpet empires were founded, to turn failing organisations into successes. By applying “discipline, inspirational leadership and by motivating teachers” more than 35 under-peforming schools around London have been turned into high- performing academies.
As chairman of Guy’s and Lewisham Hospitals from 1992 to 1995 Lord Harris reduced costs by 20% while serving 60,000 more patients each year. “It’s the achievement of which I am most proud. We established nurse banks made up of part-time returners to work instead of using expensive agency nurses, introduced a creche and a matron, and each ward sister had £2,500 to spend on small equipment of their choosing every six months instead of the hospital administration buying it for them.”
The Harris’ own praise is for the people ‘on the frontline’; “the volunteers that make it happen,” says Lord Harris. “Time is more important than money. I am in the background and yes I give money, but those armies of volunteers who give their time are fantastic.”
Lord and Lady Harris’ philanthropy touches people from the womb to end of life: “We call them our family,” says Lord Harris.