Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Dr Helen Clayson, Help the Hospices

I have been a trustee at Help the Hospices, the national charity for the hospice movement, for the past four years. I am also medical director at the Hospice of St Mary of Furness in Cumbria.

Help the Hospices was looking for people with clinical backgrounds to join the board, and the hospice nominated me as one of two doctors who could bring a clinical perspective to its work.

I was also brought in to develop national networking and to voice the concerns of a small rural hospice in the north of England.

All national organisations tend to have their headquarters in London, so people living in the north sometimes suffer from paranoia about being disenfranchised.

As a small independent hospice, we're not part of a club. So in order to network, we develop friendships with people on the board, which then leads to us speaking at other hospices across the country.

Compared with some public sector non-executive boards I have been involved with, the board at Help the Hospices engages well with the issues and is often actively involved with the work of the charity - maybe because many of the trustees are also employees, trustees or volunteers at local hospices.

As a member of the ethics committee, I have also been involved in Help the Hospices' input into the national debate on Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.

We produced a response to the proposed Bill and a briefing paper that helped inform people engaged in the debate in the House of Lords.

The board has prioritised this issue because end-of-life care is of great concern to everyone involved and could have implications for us all. I have also helped to develop our strategy on research into the needs of carers for people with terminal illnesses.

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