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New national network for HR in the hospice sector

Author: Matt Corbishley, Director of HR & Workforce Development, Ashgate Hospicecare
22 August 2016

Matt Corbishley, director of HR and workforce development at Ashgate Hospicecare, outlines plans for a new HR network for hospices, following discussions at the annual Executive Clinical Leads in Hospice and Palliative Care (ECLiHP) conference.

I was delighted to be involved with a handful of other hospice leaders in the planning of this year's annual ECLiHP conference. Held in June, the theme for the conference was 'Our staff, our care, our future'.

Topics for discussion and presentation included vocational education, workforce planning and development, and attraction and retention. A collection of comments and examples from delegates is available to download from Hospice UK's website.

In short, it was a great opportunity to identify and share good practice, and to better understand the links between leadership, learning and development, culture and engagement, attraction and brand, and ultimately, the impact this all has on our ability to deliver sustainable, high quality care.

No small feat, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt like time got the better of us on the day.

What made the event really exciting for me was the fact that, for the first time, HR leaders were invited to join their clinical colleagues at the event. As a result, we had 45 HR colleagues from hospices across the country (as well as education leads from the newly created National Hospice Education Collaborative or NHEC) engaged in discussion with clinical leads on some complex challenges and opportunities.

The decision to invite HR leads followed the results of a survey of HR leads in hospices, which tested the proposal of a more structured HR network for hospices. The survey also sought to understand what networks already exist, to gauge HR capacity in the sector, and to understand the shared strategic priorities, as perceived among HR colleagues.

Of 33% of hospices that took part in the survey, 75% reported that they meet regularly as part of a local network, but that these provide a predominantly operational focus.

More than 94% of participants were in support of a national hospice HR network, and we are hoping to launch a sector specific HR conference next year.

I have long felt that HR, as a profession within the sector, could do more to build capability and capacity in our hospices through working more collaboratively nationally and regionally, sharing best practice and providing mentoring and coaching. So I was pleased to discover this was a shared perception and ambition.

Jaci Curtis-Donnelly, director of HR at Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, and I co-facilitated a session for HR colleagues at the conference, at which we 'sense-checked' these results and gained further input and ideas on how a national network might support both the profession and hospice care more broadly in helping to meet many of the complex challenges we face.

Ideas include a network aligned nationally and regionally to ECLiHP and NHEC, with the possibility for national or regional working groups, more effective use of Hospice IQ as a repository for guidance, toolkits and to host HR related masterclasses and discussion forums, as well as a structured mentoring, coaching or buddying system for HR professionals within the sector.

There may also be opportunities to take advantage of economies of scale offered via the Hospice Quality Partnership as well as giving ourselves a stronger voice in national issues affecting the wider hospice workforce.

In a recent Q&A with ehospice, Kerry Jackson, CEO at St Gemma's Hospice and Hospice UK advisory council representative for Yorkshire and Humberside, commented that: "Valuing and developing staff, providing education for our own staff and wider practitioners and communities, developing new roles and innovating in how we provide care will be a major focus for us. An opportunity also lies in considering our workforce across whole geographical areas rather than individual organisations."

I'm inclined to agree, and believe that a more structured, collaborative approach from HR will be key to success.  

More information will follow from our next meeting with Hospice UK in November. In the meantime, we'd be delighted to share our thinking.  If you'd like to know more please contact or

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