The Brilliant Bagshaws


Runtime - 6:14

She’s a doctor who’s devoted decades to caring for disadvantaged youth. He’s a pioneering surgeon who set up a charity hospital where treatments are free.

Should Phil and Sue Bagshaw ever decide to retire, they will leave enormous shoes to fill.

Frank Film’s latest documentary offering - The Brilliant Bagshaws ( - is a glimpse into the generous and charitable world of two remarkable New Zealanders, who between them have helped thousands of people by ‘filling the gap’ between what our public health system can provide and what people can afford to pay.

They agree that their doggedness, not giving up, is key to what they’ve been able to achieve.

Sue Bagshaw could have shelved her vision many times over. For five years she has been scouring Christchurch for a site for a Youth Hub - a ‘one-stop shop’ providing training opportunities and housing various agencies as well as homeless young people.

She has earmarked several central city locations and campaigned city leaders for support, to no avail.

However, driven by a strong faith and a desire to help those who’ve been “given a raw deal”, giving up is not an option for Sue Bagshaw.

“No is just a temporary inconvenience,” she laughs. “It's not a no, it’s just a delayed yes.”

Her unfailing optimism may yet be rewarded. Anglican Care has purchased the vacant Canterbury Bowling Club in Salisbury Street. Sue Bagshaw says the church has agreed to lease the site to the Youth Hub Trust for a peppercorn rental. The only hurdles to overcome are winning over neighbours who oppose the plans, and gaining resource consent.

While she waits, her work overseeing the health needs of Christchurch’s disadvantaged youth at the 298 clinic continues. Post-quake the clinic has moved premises five times. Sue Bagshaw hopes its next shift is to Salisbury Street and a larger, permanent home.

Across town in Bishopdale the Canterbury Charity Hospital, founded by Sue’s husband Phil Bagshaw, continues to expand - from one building to five.

Since it opened in 2007, there have been over 17,000 patient visits, everything from colorectal screening to counselling.

The hospital is staffed by three paid employees and a phenomenal 286 volunteers.

Some are retired health workers, while others have day jobs in private and/or public healthcare.

Phil Bagshaw once worked in the public health system as a surgeon. He was also Chair of the New Zealand branch of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and an elected member of the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB).

Disillusioned by the sweeping health reforms of the 1990’s and his inability to make change from within, Phil Bagshaw left the CDHB in 2011 and went on to establish the Canterbury Charity Hospital Trust.

Sue Bagshaw likens her husband to Nurse Maude. “She was in the district health board apparently and then she got sick of not doing anything for the community, so she upped sticks and left and set up her own hospital. That’s just what Phil did.”

The couple met at medical school in London, “over a dead body” according to Phil Bagshaw.

They settled in Christchurch to raise their family - three of their adult children live in adjoining homes - and love the city for it’s sense of community and generosity. The Charity Hospital is funded entirely through bequests, appeals and donations.

Sue & Phil Bagshaw will both turn 70 this year, the bulk of their lives given to caring for those in need.