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Kate Tompkins on the role of a trustee

Author: Leila Hawkins
13 November 2017

This week is Trustees' Week (13-17 November) which showcases the vital contribution made by charity trustees. Kate Tompkins is Chair of the Board at Dorothy House Hospice Care in Wiltshire and Hospice UK’s Chair of the Forum of Trustees. Here she tells us about her aims and what for her is the most important aspect of being a trustee.

How long have you been involved with the hospice sector?

I have been a trustee for four years and the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Dorothy House for two years. But I was inspired by Cicely Saunders when I was a student nurse at Kings College Hospital. Cicely was setting up St Christopher’s and spoke to us about her work and ambition.  Since then both as a nurse and manager in the NHS I have been involved in end of life care in various ways, including providing care in the community and working in partnership with charities, the local authority and commissioning services.

What is the most important part of the role of a trustee?

For me there are three key areas of work: strategy, policy and governance.  It is important to work with the executive team as ‘a critical friend’ but to respect the boundaries in terms of the executive role and the role of trustees.

As Chair of the Forum, what initiatives have you been involved with so far?

I have been Chair for about eight months and we are currently working on the engagement of trustees and chairmen across the UK.  I look forward to meeting colleagues at Hospice UK's conference in Liverpool.

What do you aim to accomplish in this role?

I would like to ensure the trustee network is active and engaged both with the Advisory Council and Hospice UK.  The talent round hospice board tables is significant and if we can harness those skills through our networks at regional or country level as well as at national level the added value to the hospice world is considerable.

What challenges have you faced?

Our current challenge or opportunity as a hospice is to develop a five year strategy and sustainability plan. In the complex ever-changing world of healthcare with the certain knowledge that  the increasing demands and the widening of our services to all who need them require a considerable increase in our income. We are optimistic and realistic with a strong commitment to partnership across our 700 square miles.

What have you learnt in your role as a trustee?

I feel that throughout my career in health and the charity sector one of the greatest lessons has been to develop good relationships with colleagues and partners and work as a team. One of my best decisions as a manager became a reality because I outlined the problem we were facing to the whole team and the Health Care Assistant came up with the answer!

What would you like to do once your term finishes?

I currently Chair a national charity - the National Osteoporosis Society, as well as my role in the hospice movement. When those roles come to an end I will reflect on whether I can still make a contribution as a volunteer or trustee in the charity world.

Trustees Week runs until Friday November 17. For more information visit Trustees’ Week website and  Dorothy House Hospice Care

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