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Strengthening hospice governance

Author: Antonia Bunnin
05 December 2016

Antonia Bunnin, Director of Hospice Support and Development at Hospice UK, highlights the support available to hospice trustees and other senior staff through the charity’s Governance Support Programme.

The need for good hospice governance is greater than ever. At Hospice UK, it is apparent from our work with hospice boards and leadership teams across the land that the challenges they face are increasing in number and complexity.  Alongside this, the complexity of the strategic decision-making required of them is increasing too, along with the risks of negative impact if they make poor decisions.

In 2013, the Commission into the Future of Hospice Care identified rapid demographic change, changes in patterns of illness, increasing financial constraints, and uncertainty about future funding as just some of the challenges that are causing hospices to become more vulnerable.

The Commission said that such pressures are only likely to increase, and in the three years since its final report was published, this prediction has proved entirely accurate.  In the same period we have also seen rising public concern and media scrutiny of charitable fundraising methods and the quality of charity governance.

The Commission urged hospices to adapt to become fit for the future, to make positive, informed decisions about how they operate, and find new ways of ensuring that hospice care can match future needs.  Good governance and effective leadership are central to hospices' ability to respond to these many and varied challenges.  Yet it can be hard for hospice trustees to know who to turn to for support and how to tell whether they are getting it right.

That is why earlier this year Hospice UK launched our Governance Support Programme - a new programme of support for our members, especially hospice trustees and boards.  As part of this programme, we have been working with the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School to develop a new series of masterclasses which will run in January, February and March 2017.

Our Building Better Hospice Governance two-day masterclasses will be delivered by Fiona Ash and Christine Fogg, both highly experienced Cass consultants who have worked with hundreds of charity boards, including many hospices.  They are aimed at hospice trustees, CEOs and other senior staff.  Participants will explore key governance issues in depth, drawing on real-life examples and exploring board accountabilities; different approaches to board reporting; performance review and ensuring board effectiveness; optimising board meetings, and the board’s role in strategy.

Our masterclasses on Investing in the Relationship between the Hospice Chair and Chief Executive are for chairs and CEOs to attend as a pair.  Run by experienced Cass consultants Caroline Copeman and James Barrett, they will offer a safe and positive space to explore in a structured way how this vital relationship can be supported to be as effective as possible.  Participants will consider ways to nurture the relationship at each stage of its lifecycle, explore individuals' relationships to consider what is needed from them and what should be put into them, and learn how to continuously review and rebalance the relationship to ensure the future success of the hospice.

We hope that these masterclasses, which take place in Leeds, London and Bradford-on-Avon (near Bath) will provide a rich source of support and learning for participants.

In 2017 we are also continuing our quarterly introductory masterclasses, Hospice Trustees – what you need to know delivered by independent consultant Sarah Hargreaves.  These are aimed at new trustees, plus experienced trustees who want a refresher covering their main responsibilities.

Also, as part of our Governance Support Programme, in early 2017 we will publish updated versions of our Good Practice Guides for hospice boards and trustees.  And in spring we will publish the Peering over the Precipice Toolkit, to help hospice boards identify early signs of risk and vulnerability and take action to avoid deterioration into crisis.  We welcome members' suggestions about what would be most useful as we develop the Governance Support Programme further.

For more information contact Jean Hindmarch or Antonia Bunnin at Hospice UK. 

For information about our governance masterclasses or to book places, visit our website

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