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Massage therapist at the Royal Free Hospital receives MBE from Prince Charles

Keith Hunt outside the Royal Free with his MBE Keith Hunt outside the Royal Free with his MBE

Monday, January 28, 2013
3:00 PM

A massage therapist who transformed the Royal Free Hospital into a pioneering centre for the complimentary treatment has received his MBE from Prince Charles.

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Keith Hunt, 63, has worked for the hospital, in Pond Street, Hampstead, for 46 years and in that time he has not had a single day off work sick.

“Doing something you love – that’s the secret of my success!” said Mr Hunt, who collected the prestigious honour at Buckingham Palace on Friday (January 25).

In his time at the Royal Free, Mr Hunt has given thousands of massages and under his steer the hospital now has a department with five full-time staff who offer complimentary massage therapy to anybody who wants it.

The Royal Free is the only hospital in the country with free massage therapy available on every ward and it helps patients with everything from cancer to eating disorders.

“We’re there for the person, not the disease,” said Mr Hunt. “It’s very relaxing, especially in care for the elderly who don’t get many visitors.

“We work with many people, from children with eating disorders, to the elderly, to cancer and leukaemia patients.

“Some people just want something a bit different and this fits the bill to help with pain.”

Patients at the Royal Free are referred to Mr Hunt or one of the other massage therapists by their doctors.

Some are treated in the comfort of their own beds or bedside chairs while those undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy as out-patients enjoy treatment in the hospital’s massage room.

Mr Hunt said that 20 years ago, when he first began toying with the idea of giving out free massages at the hospital, doctors were less receptive.

But the Royal Free now performs 21,000 free massages a year.

“There was the difficulty of doctors understanding alternative therapy and something that compliments what they are doing,” said Mr Hunt. “But this is just an adjunct for people who are ill.”

He added: “It’s like a family. We might see someone for three or four months and with all the other treatments that are happening, like chemo or radiation, it’s nice to have something at the end of the day to look forward to.

“When you’ve been in hospital for a long time, sometimes you can forget the person behind the disease.”

Mr Hunt said that his award was “a great honour.”

“The whole thing was beautifully done,” he explained.

“Prince Charles gave it to me, we had a quite a long talk – longer than I’d hoped in some ways, because I was quite nervous and I was worried that I’d say the wrong thing.”

But he added: “It was the best day of my life!”

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