AN education expert who devoted his career to improving palliative care at Ardgowan Hospice and throughout the local community has retired.

Dr Stuart Milligan, the hospice's education facilitator, has worked tirelessly to improve the end of life care patients receive.

After 19 years, the 59-year-old is retiring from the role.

A surprise party was held in his honour at Broomhill Gardens and Community Hub on Friday where he received a standing ovation.

Stuart said: "I have worked with fantastic people, Inverclyde is a great place to work.

"The people are so friendly and very caring.

"The hospice is a really nice community - it's a community within a community."

Dr Milligan started his career as a nurse and his first job was in Stobhill Hospital.

He then went on to work at Accord Hospice in Paisley and as a community palliative care nurse specialist in Barrhead.

After this he took up the role as education facilitator, which saw him working as lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland while training staff at the hospice and undertaking outreach training throughout the local area.

He said: "It was a joint post that was created to try and combine an academic role in the university with the practice role at the hospice where I would do staff training and also outreach education in care homes, with community staff and anyone who needs that type of training.

"It means the university gets the benefit of the knowledge of practice and the hospice gets the knowledge of theory.

"It was about trying to improve palliative care locally, not just in the hospice but across the whole of Inverclyde.

"A lot of the job was outreach work and teaching other people about compassion, openness, good communication, symptom control, care for the families and psychological support."

Dr Milligan says he will miss the job.

He said: "I have enjoyed being part of the hospice family for all of these years and contributing to hospice life has been good.

"It has been great to meet lots of people from all different sectors around Inverclyde."

The impact Dr Milligan has had on the hospice was evident at his surprise retirement party on Friday where he was joined with his family, friends, hospice staff and volunteers and care workers.

He said: "I was overwhelmed.

"I was amazed at the work put into my send off."

He was keen to thank Linda McEnhill, the chief executive of the hospice as well as Anne Rae, the hospice executive assistant and his colleague Moira Brown.

He added: "I'm so grateful to the hospice, it has been a great employer for all these years.

"I'm so grateful to all the retired people and the hospice staff and volunteers who came along, it was great of them to come along.

"I would also like to thank the catering staff at Broomhill Gardens and Community Hub."

Dr Milligan is now looking forward to spending more time with his family, wife Jacqui and their children Lewis, 26, Euan, 22, and Cal, 19.