With my retirement as St Luke’s Chief Executive coming up on 4 May, I want to take this opportunity to say what an immense privilege it has been to serve at the helm of our hospice for the past six years.
It would be far too difficult to home in on just one or two memories that I will take with me from my time as CEO, and my years as Deputy and HR Director before that, so instead I’ll share the overriding feeling I am left with as I approach retirement.
It really has been way more than a job – it has been the most incredible journey, working alongside our amazing staff and volunteers, and I speak from my heart when I say I am very proud of what we have achieved together, always putting the best interests of our patients and their families at the centre of what we do.
I want to say a huge thank-you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with at St Luke’s. The dedication all our staff and volunteers show to our community day in, day out is second to none, and I say this recognising that maintaining such a high calibre of service is often very challenging in the face of growing demands on our hospice team. I am so grateful to have ended my career at a place where everyone cares so much and is working towards the same, shared goal.
The decision to step away has not been an easy one, but I am retiring at the time that feels right for me, professionally and personally, and with the assurance of knowing that St Luke’s incoming CEO, Christina Quinn, is absolutely the best pair of hands to receive the reins from me.
She will be supported by the same great group of senior management colleagues I have been fortunate enough to work alongside.
For those of you who don’t already know, until last November Christina was Chair of our charity’s Board of Trustees. She comes with not only her trademark dynamism and many years’ experience at senior level within the NHS, but also the knowledge, wisdom and insight gained from six years of leading our governing body, during which time we have weathered the pandemic and gone through transformation.
I want to thank current Chair of Trustees Charles Hackett (and former Chair Christina), and every other member of our board for their support over the years. Being a trustee is a massive responsibility and they work tirelessly to steer our charity safely towards our vision. We could not do what we do without them.
As I prepare for my retirement (I’m still getting used to that word!) and then ‘decompressing’ from the huge responsibility of running a hospice, I want to let you know that I am not thinking of this as ‘goodbye’. While I won’t be interfering in the running of St Luke’s, I’ll be following St Luke’s with interest and great affection – and you’re bound to see me pop up, getting muddy at Tour de Moor and no doubt volunteering at Midnight Walk.
In signing off this last message as St Luke’s CEO, I want to say thank you again to everyone for their support in making sure St Luke’s continues to be the safe haven our community needs for anyone diagnosed with, or affected by, life-limiting illness.
When Steve first announced his plans to retire, in November 2022, he wrote the following:
There is never a ‘perfect’ time to leave a job and organisation you hold very dear, but both personally and professionally it feels like the right time for me to hand over the reins to a successor who will bring with them their own ideas and leadership style.
The decision to retire next year has not been an easy one – not only because I’m incredibly proud of the service that together we have grown, shaped and honed so that it’s the very best it can be for our patients and their families, but because the St Luke’s team are the best of the best.
If you’ll bear with me, I’m going to repeat a story that I’ve told at many a Welcome Day over the years, and it goes back to when I first set foot inside Turnchapel for my interview as HR Director 18 years ago. If I’m completely honest, it was more about getting interview practice than securing the job itself. After all, I told myself, wouldn’t a hospice be rather a depressing place to work? Of course, I was wrong – something that didn’t take long to dawn on me. And, by the time my interview was over, I really wanted the job!
St Luke’s empathy, compassion and positivity was absolutely palpable that day at Turnchapel, just as it always is there or wherever you come into contact with our staff and volunteers. It’s what inspired me to take the job and progress to the role of Chief Executive (via a few years in the Deputy position), and though it’s hard to describe the special atmosphere to people who’ve never experienced it, it’s what I still feel every single day when I come to work.
Being CEO is not a nine-to-five job, far from it, and that’s exactly what you’d expect. Even when I’m out and about in the evenings and at weekends, there are always people wanting to talk to me about St Luke’s and share their personal stories of the difference our team made to them in the midst of a very tough time. In that sense, as CEO you are always ‘on’, but this has never felt like a burden to me. The attention and feedback from our community is simply testament to how much our staff and volunteers do for these families, always exceeding expectations and leaving them with memories that still bring them comfort, even many years on.
Reflecting on my time at St Luke’s and what I feel proudest of – alongside my colleagues – is the way our organisation has continuously innovated to keep pace with the changing needs of our patients, who always come first.
There have been times when we’ve had to make difficult decisions, but it’s this agility and patient-centred approach that has helped us adapt and thrive, maintaining the trust of our community and meeting them at their point of need, wherever they happen to be.
I am also proud of the partnerships we have built and strengthened along the way, including with University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Marie Curie and Livewell South West, that are so critical to the delivery of seamless care for patients.
While none of us will forget the pandemic in a hurry, so relentless did it feel for us all, what it did for St Luke’s is shine a light on our specialist knowledge and skills in end of life care and bereavement support, which were in demand more than ever before. The way our teams reacted swiftly to help ease the load on our health and social care partners, dealing with huge challenges with such good grace, has been noted throughout our local networks, increasing awareness of, and respect for, what we do.
Even more so than before, they will look to us for their education needs, recognising how valuable our expertise is to them. This is especially heartening given St Lukes’s continued investment in our Education team and its provision for health and social care providers, from GPs to care home staff.
In closing, I want to reassure you that during the next six months before my retirement starts, I will be committed to leading St Luke’s diligently.
I will be leaving our hospice in good shape and in very capable hands. Though it will be very hard to say goodbye in April, it is my trust in our team that gives me complete peace of mind as I plan the next phase of my life.
Travelling…cycling…yes, there’ll be more time to enjoy those, but apart from that I’m remaining open to what retirement may bring. What is certain is that I will take with me huge pride, respect and appreciation for all my colleagues right across St Luke’s our unwavering supporters and fantastic memories of an exceptionally special time.