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Tribute to Barbara West

Image shows Barbara smiling

Barbara West,

A wonderful woman who lived in Isleworth and whom we supported for many years, sadly died in hospital recently, having been diagnosed with Covid-19.

This week, BBC Breakfast featured a wonderful tribute to Barbara, in which her sister, Frances, and Certitude CEO, Aisling Duffy, remembered her life and raised issues about the impact Covid-19 may have on people with learning disabilities, particularly around hospital admissions.

Life and soul

Everyone who knew Barbara knew that she had a very active social life, was a keen drummer and loved bowling. Aisling described her as “the most feisty, fun-loving, charming, humorous, life-and-soul of the party.” Those close to Barbara also know just how much she would have loved being on TV!

Frances said of her sister:

“She loved the limelight – often taking the mic and “talking” or “singing” in her own way when given the opportunity at get-togethers. She never really could speak clearly or form sentences, but you could figure out what she wanted – or didn’t want. She had a strong personality (runs in the family) and could hold her own”

Indy, House Manager at Finney Lane, remembers a story that he feels summed up Barbara’s character:
“My fondest memory was when we went to Littlehampton beach. She disappeared for five minutes, causing staff to go into panic mode. Then all of a sudden, she waltzed out of a nearby changing room in her bikini and sunglasses – she had worn her bikini under her clothes without anyone knowing! All the staff just laughed our heads off – this was Babs through and through, unpredictable and with a mind of her own.”

Impact of Covid-19 on hospital admissions

On BBC Breakfast, Frances talked about how difficult it was not being able to visit her sister in the hospital: “They wouldn’t let any visitors in after she tested positive, so she was in hospital for several weeks on her own.”

Aisling said:

“Good health care for people with learning disabilities in ordinary times requires the amazing advocacy by our staff and families. One of our biggest worries is people going into hospitals unaccompanied.”

As those who knew Barbara celebrate her life, people are understandably concerned about whether the needs of individuals will be met should they have to go to hospital during this time. We’d urge any family members to speak to your usual contact if you’re concerned about a loved one. Alternatively, you can contact:

Celebrating Barbara

In a final tribute written for her sister, Frances said:

“One thing I wanted for Barb was to make sure people knew who she was, and [that she] was worthy of attention – unlike decades ago [when] people like her were kept out of the public eye – and she, like everyone else, deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. I’m sure a lot of people would have attended the celebration of her life and everyone would have worn red – her favourite colour.

The people who knew Barbara are celebrating her life in their own way – by wearing red or simply by remembering her ‘priceless’ sense of humour! As somebody who embraced life and had an impact on so many, Barbara will be hugely missed.